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Note. — The Editor thinks that the best Introduction which 
could be prefixed to Balzac's Letters is this biographical notice, 
written and published by his sister, Madame Laura Surville, 
some time after the death of her brother. 

The characteristics of the parents have so much 
influence over the moral and physical condition of 
their children, that some account of our father and 
mother is necessary, for it will explain many 
things in the early life of my brother. 

My father was born, in 1746, in Languedoc. 
He was avocat in the Council under Louis XVI. 
His position brought him into relations with many 
of the remarkable personages of that day, and also 
with some of the men who became famous during 

you h M B 


the Revolution. These intimacies with both 
parties enabled him in 1 793 to save more than 
one of his old friends and patrons. These 
services involved him in some danger; but an 
influential member of the Convention, who took an 
interest in Citoyen Balzac, lost no time in removing 
him from Robespierre's remembrance by despatch- 
ing him to the North, to organise the commissariat 
of the army. 

Thrown thus into the employment of the War 
Department, my father remained in it, and at the 
period of his marriage (1 797) he was still attached 
to the commissariat of the twenty-second military 
division. He married the daughter of the head of 
his department, who was also the director of the 
hospitals in Paris. 

My father resided for nineteen years at Tours, 
where he purchased a house standing in its own 

After he had been ten years resident he was 
offered the mayoralty ; but he declined this honour 
because it would have interfered with his duties as 
director of the great hospital at Tours, of which 
he had undertaken the charge. 

My father seemed to have inherited his origin- 
ality, humour, and benevolence from Montaigne, 
Rabelais, and ' Uncle Toby.' Like ' Uncle Toby' 


he had a hobby. With my father this was health. 
He was so happy and comfortable himself, that he 
desired to live as long as he possibly could. He 
had calculated that, according to the years required 
for a man to reach his prime, the years of his life 
ought to be a hundred, or even more. In order 
to attain to the utmost, he took extraordinary care 
of himself, and paid unceasing attention to the 
preservation of what he called ' the equilibrium of 
the vital powers.' 

After his marriage he had an additional reason 
for wishing to live as long as possible ; for at the 
age of forty-five, being then unmarried and not 
contemplating marriage, he sunk the greater 
portion of his money in annuities, partly in Govern- 
ment securities, and partly in the Lafarge tontine, 
which was just then instituted, and to the funds of 
which he was one of the largest subscribers. 
Owing to waste and mismanagement it did not 
yield as it ought to have done ; still when he died 
in 1829, at the age of eighty-three, from the effects 
of an accident, he was drawing an income of 
twelve thousand francs per annum, and he was 
very sanguine that he would survive all his com- 
panions, and share with Government the immense 
capital of the tontine. 

Under all losses and reverses he used to say, 

B 2 



4 Laîarge will one day make up for all ; ' and he 
was constantly exhorting his family to take care of 
their health, in order that they might enjoy the 
millions he would be sure to leave behind him. 

The originality of his sayings and doings was 
proverbial in Tours. He could neither say nor do 
anything like other people; Hoffmann would have 
adopted him into his fantastic stories. 

My father was often bitterly sarcastic. He 
used to say that mankind work incessantly to 
bring about their own misfortunes ; and he 
could never see a deformed or very ugly person 
without grieving bitterly, indignant that govern- 
ments should bestow so much more pains upon 
improving the breed of animals than upon amelior- 
ating the moral and physical conditions of the 


human race. 

1 But what/ he would exclaim, as he paced up 
and down the room in his fine silk dressing-gown, 
with his head sunk in the folds of the enormous 
cravat — a fashion which he retained from the 
Directory — ' what is the good of saying all this ? 
People will only say I am eccentric [an epithet 
which made him furious] ; and there will be never a 
rickety etiolated creature born the less ! Human 
nature is incorrigible ; and yet the creature always 
young, always old, goes on for ever — fortunately 


for us and for our successors/ he would add with 
a smile. 

He did not, however, mock at humanity when 
there was an opportunity to be of use to those who 
needed help. 

Epidemics were not unfrequent in the hospital. 
At the time when it was crowded by the soldiers 
who were returning from Spain, a severe epidemic 
broke out. My father then took up his abode in 
the hospital; and, # forgetting all about his own 
health, he watched over the sick, displaying a zeal 
which, coming from him, might truly be termed 

He succeeded in putting an end to many 
abuses, without taking any heed to the enmities 
to which this sort of conduct gives rise. He 
also introduced many improvements into this 

My father was never at a loss for a reply. One 
day some one was reading to him an article in a 
newspaper about a centenarian. He interrupted 
the reader to exclaim with enthusiasm — 

' Ah ! that man lived wisely ; he did not 
squander his health and strength in all manner of 
excesses, like the imprudent young men of our 
day.' On reading further, however, it appeared 
that this wise and prudent-living man used fre- 


quently to get drunk, and that he ate supper every 
night — which my father considered was one of the 
greatest enormities which could be committed 
against health. When my father heard this he 
said calmly, ' That man shortened his life ; that 
is all/ 

My mother — young, beautiful, and much 
younger than her husband — was endowed with 
rare brilliancy of wit and imagination; she 
possessed indefatigable activity, great firmness and 
decision of character, and her devoted attachment 
to her children and friends knew no bounds. 

My brother was born at Tours, May 16, 1799, 
on the day of St Honorius. This name pleased 
my father, who bestowed it on his son, although 
there had been no precedent for it in the family on 
either side. 

My mother had lost her first child in the en- 
deavour to suckle it herself. An excellent nurse 
was found for the little Honoré. She resided near 
the gate of the town, in a good, well-ventilated 
house, surrounded by gardens. Here he throve 
so well that, when I came into the world, I also 
was committed to her care ; and Honoré remained 
with her until he was four years old, when we 
returned to the home of our parents together. 
The excellent health of Honoré preserved my 


mother from all those anxieties which generally 
take the shape of over-indulgence. Children in 
those days were not made of the importance 
which is the fashion now ; they were kept in the 
background, and taught to be respectful and obe- 
dient to their parents. 

Mdlle. Delahaye, who had the charge of us, 
was possibly a little too strict on this point, for she 
inspired us with fear of our parents as well as 
respect. My brother long retained a vivid recol- 
lection of the terrors that used to seize us when we 
were taken to say ' Good morning ' to our mother, 
and when we had to go into her sitting-room in 
the evening to say ' Good night.' Although these 
ceremonies were repeated every day, they never 
ceased to be awful. To be sure my mother on 
these occasions professed to read upon our faces 
the faults we had committed during the day 
(of which, of course, she had been informed) ; and 
these faults always brought upon us her severe 
reprimands, for she alone punished or rewarded 
us. Honoré was neither transformed into a 
prodigy nor yet flattered at the age when 
children only judge the love of their parents by 
smiles and caresses. If he early showed any of 
the traits which afterwards distinguished him, 
nobody remarked on them nor remembered 


them. He was a lovely and charming child. His 
bright humour ; his beautifully formed mouth, 
which always smiled; his large brown eyes, at 
once soft and sparkling ; his fine forehead and rich 
black hair, attracted admiring remarks from all 
who passed us in our daily walks. 

Honoré was the eldest ; after him came two 
sisters and a brother. Our youngest sister died 
young, after she had been married five years. Our 
other brother went to the -colonies, where he 
married and settled. 

When Honoré was born, there was every pro- 
mise that his prospects in life would be ex- 
cellent. The fortune of our mother, and that of 
our maternal grandmother, who came, after the 
death of her husband, to reside with us, together 
with the emoluments and annuities of my father, 
made up a large income for our family. 

My mother devoted herself entirely to our 
education ; but as she thought fit to exercise 
great strictness, which was almost severity, towards 
us, to neutralise what she considered the over- 
indulgence of our father and grandmother, this 
austerity on the part of my mother had the effect 
of repressing the tender, expansive nature of 
Honoré, whilst the age and gravity of my father 
made my brother in those early days feel reserved 


towards him. This state of things, however, 
strengthened and intensified the bond of affection 
between Honoré and myself. Brotherly love was 
certainly the earliest sentiment in his heart. I 
was only two years his junior, and stood exactly in 
the same relation towards our parents ; brought 
up together, we loved each other tenderly. He 
was good to me ever since I can remember any- 
thing. I shall never forget the quickness with 
which he once ran to save me from falling down 
three steep, unequal steps which led from our 
nurse's room into the garden. His affectionate 
protection continued the same when we returned 
to our father's house. Many were the times when 
he let himself be punished for my faults without 
ever betraying my guilt. When I happened to 
come up in time to take the blame on myself, he 
would say — 

1 Another time, do not own to anything. I like 
to be scolded instead of you/ 

One never forgets such traits of innocent self- 

A fortunate concurrence of circumstances 
preserved our friendship on its early footing. We 
always continued to live near each other, in an 
unchanged affection and an unreserved intimacy. 
1 have always known the joys and sorrows of 


my brother, and I never lost the privilege of 
sharing them. The certainty of all I was able to 
be to him is my great consolation now that he 
is no more. 

When Honoré became of an age to under- 
stand and appreciate his father, the latter was a 
handsome old man, still strong and energetic, 
with courteous manners, seldom speaking of him- 
self, full of indulgence for the young, in whom he 
delighted, leaving to everyone the freedom he 
desired for himself. His judgment was sound and 
upright ; and, in spite of his eccentricities, his 
temper was so equal, and his nature so sweet, that 
he made everybody happy who lived with him. H is 
highly cultivated intellect made him watch with 
delight the progress of science and of social im- 
provements, of which he foresaw from their com- 
mencement their influence upon the future. My 
father's earnest conversations and curious histories 
gave his son an insight into the science of life, 
and furnished the groundwork of more than one 
of his works. 

The great event of my brother's childhood 
was a journey to Paris. My mother took him 
there in 1804, to present him to his grandparents. 
They were enchanted with their lovely grand- 
child, and loaded him with caresses and presents. 


Little accustomed to be made much of, Honoré 
returned home with his head full of delightful 
recollections, and with his heart filled with love 
for these charming grandparents, of whom he 
talked to me without ceasing, and did his best to 
describe, not omitting their house, their beautiful 
garden, and above all ' Mouche/ the great watch- 
dog, with whom he had been especially intimate. 
This visit to Paris served to fill his imagination 
for a long time. Some months after this visit 
Honored brown silk vest and its beautiful light- 
blue sash were taken away, and he was dressed 
in mourning instead. His dear grandpapa had 
died suddenly in a fit of apoplexy. It was his 
first grief. He cried bitterly when they told him 
he would never see his grandfather more ; and 
the remembrance remained so fixed in his mind 
that long after this sorrowful day, seeing me once 
seized with laughter that I could not control 
when my mother was giving me a reprimand, he 
came up to me, and, by way of putting a stop to 
this boisterous laughter, which was beginning to 
make me ill, he whispered in a tragical tone— 
1 Think of the death of grandpapa.' 
Hitherto what I have said of the early years 
of Honoré reveals rather his goodness than his 
intelligence. I recollect, however, that he used to 


display his imagination in those childish games that 
George Sand so well describes in her ' Memoirs/ 
My brother used to invent and improvise little 
plays, which used to amuse us greatly ; and he 
used for hours together to scrape the strings of a 
little red violin. His face, radiant with delight, 
showed that he, at least, felt that he was listening 
to melodies. He was much astonished whenever 
I entreated him to put an end to this music, 
which would have set Mouche howling. 

1 You do not understand how beautiful it is/ 
he would reply. 

Like most children, he used to be passionately 
fond of fairy tales. They no doubt inspired him 
with other stories ; for sometimes, after a long 
continuance of bewildering chatter, he would fall 
into long periods of silence, which at that time 
were set down to fatigue, but which might also 
be reveries in the world of imagination. 

When my brother was seven years old he 
ceased to be a day scholar at Tours, and was 
sent to the College of Vendôme, which at that 
time had a high reputation. He remained seven 
years at this college, which gave no holidays. 

We used to go to visit him every year at 
Easter, when there was the distribution of prizes. 
He was seldom successful in these competitions, 


and he received more reproach than praise during 
those days to which he had looked forward with 
so much delight 

The remembrance of this period inspired the 
first part of his book ' Louis Lambert* In this 
first part Louis Lambert and Balzac are one in 
two persons. College life, with the events of 
every day — what he suffered, what he thought — 
are all true — even to the incident of the Trea- 
tise on the Will, which one of the professors flung 
into the fire without reading, in his rage at finding 
that, instead of what he had ordered. My brother 
always regretted the loss of this manuscript — it 
was a specimen of what he was at that period of 
his life. 

He was fourteen years of age when M. 
Mareschal, the director of the college, wrote to 
my mother, between Easter and the prize day, 
desiring her to come instantly to take away her 
son. He had fallen into a state of coma, which 
alarmed the masters all the more that they could 
form no conjecture about the cause. They had 
always considered my brother an idle scholar, so 
they were far from attributing his cerebral attack 
to the fatigue of over-work. 

Honoré had become thin and poor-looking; 
he was like those somnambulists who sleep with 


their eyes open. He did not hear half that was 
said to him, and could not have replied if he had 
been abruptly asked, ' Where are you ? What 
are you thinking about ? ' 

None of us ever forgot the astonishment of 
the whole family at the sight of Honoré when my 
mother brought him home from Vendôme. 

1 So ! ' cried my grandmother dolefully, ' this 
is the condition in which the College gives us 
back the pretty boys we have sent there ! ' 

My father, who at first was very uneasy at the 
condition of his son, was soon reassured when 
he saw that change of scene, plenty of fresh air, 
and the healthy influence of family intercourse 
began to restore the vivacity and gaiety of ado- 
lescence, which was then commencing for him. 

This curious condition, which he afterwards 
accounted for, arose, to use his own words, 
from a congestion of ideas. Unknown to the 
professors, he had read through most of the books 
in the rich library of the college, collected by the 
learned oratorians who were the founders and 
proprietors of this enormous institution, where 
three hundred pupils were received. It was in 
the place of solitary confinement to which he 
contrived to be committed every day that he 
had read these solid works, which developed his 


mind at the expense of his body, just at the age 
when the physical powers need to be exercised at 
least as much as those of the intellect. 

The classification of the ideas thus obtained 
took place gradually in his powerful memory, 
wherein he was already storing up the incidents 
and characters that passed before him. 

These recollections served him in later years 
for those wonderful 'Scènes de la Vie de Pro- 

Moved inwardly towards a vocation he did 
not as yet understand, he was led instinctively 
and unconsciously to studies and observations 
which were to prepare him for his future labours 
and to impart to them their rich fertility. 

He amassed materials without knowing the 
purpose they were destined to serve. 

Some of the types in ' La Comédie humaine ' 
date from this period. 

During the long walks which my mother 
insisted upon, he began to see and admire with 
the eyes of an artist the soft and beautiful scenery 
of his beloved Touraine, which he afterwards de- 
scribed so well. 

He would stand silently to watch the splendid 
sunsets lighting up the Gothic towers of Tours, 
the villages scattered on all sides, and the majestic 


Loire covered with sailing vessels, great and 

M y mother, however, desired he should take 
exercise instead of falling into reveries, and she 
obliged him to help our young brother fly his kite, 
or to run races with me and my sister. He then 
forgot all about the beauty of the landscape, and 
became the youngest and the gayest of the four 
children who surrounded my mother. 

She took us every saints' day to the Cathedral 
of St Gatien, and there Honoré could dream as 
much as he pleased. None of the poetry or splen- 
dour of this fine building were lost upon him. He 
remembered everything — the wonderful effects of 
light as it streamed through the old glass windows ; 
the clouds of incense which enveloped those who 
swung the censers ; and all the majestic ceremonial 
of the service, which was made still more splendid 
by the presence of the Cardinal Archbishop. 

The physiognomies of the priests, which he 
studied on those occasions, enabled him in after 
days to create the Abbés Birotteau and Lorau ; 
and the Curé Bonnet, whose tranquil soul is so 
finely in contrast with the remorse of the repent- 
ant Veronica. 

This cathedral made so profound an impres 
sion upon my brother's mind, that the mere name 


of • St. Gatien ' always awoke in him worlds of 
recollections in which the pure fresh feelings of 
early youth and religious sentiments (which he 
never lost) were mingled with the manly thoughts 
which were even then taking shape in that power- 
ful brain. 

He was attended by various masters at home, 
and followed with them the course of college 

He began to say that one day he would make 
S J the world talk of him ; and these expressions, at 
which everybody laughed, became the source of 
constant raillery. In the name of this future 
celebrity he had to endure a great deal of teasing — 
little pricks and stings, the prelude of more severe 
ones in after life. The apprenticeship was not 
without its use. 

He took all our jokes in good part (he was 
always laughing in those happy days). Never was 
there a more lovable creature ; but also there 
never was anyone who earlier developed the 
desire to become celebrated, or the intuitive 
certainty that he would attain success. 

Those around him, however, were very far 
from encouraging or cultivating these ideas. My 
brother, as I have said, was under a feeling of 
restraint before our parents ; he thought more 

vol. i. C 



than he spoke when in their presence. They, not 
knowing the cause of this, shared the opinion of 
his masters, who saw in him nothing but a very 
commonplace boy, who needed much urging 
on to make him learn his Greek and Latin 

Our mother, who paid more attention to him 
than anyone, was so far from suspecting what her 
eldest son really was, or what he promised one 
day to become, that she set down to accident the 
sagacious remarks and reflections which sometimes 
escaped him. 

'You certainly do not know what you are 
talking about, Honoré/ she would say on these 

He would only reply by the sweet, subtle smile 
peculiar to him. This eloquent though silent pro- 
test provoked my mother when she happened to 
see it, and she called it arrogance and presump- 

Honoré never ventured to defend himself to 
her, nor to explain the meaning either of his smile 
or of his ideas. 

Towards the close of 1814 my father was 
called to Paris to undertake the direction of the 
commissariat of the first military division. 

Honoré continued his studies under M. Lepitre, 


of the Rue Saint-Louis, and MM. Sganzer and 
Beuzelin, of the Rue Thorigny, in the Marais, where 
we resided. Honoré did not distinguish himself 
here, any more than he had done at the Colleges 
of Tours and Vendôme. 

When it came to making his essays in rhetoric, 
he began to perceive and become enamoured of 
the beauties of the French language. 

I have preserved one of his competition pieces, 
' The Speech of the Wife of Brutus to her Husband 
after the Condemnation of his Sons/ The grief of 
the mother is given with great power, and there 
was already promise of the faculty which my 
brother possessed of entering into the heart of his 

When he was seventeen and a half his course 
of study in class terminated, and in 1816 he 
returned home for the third time. 

My mother, who considered industry the found- 
ation of all education, understood thoroughly the 
value of time : she did not allow her son to be a 
moment idle. 

He received lessons in the branches of learn- 
ing which had been neglected in college, and 
he followed the courses of lectures at the Sor- 

I remember well his enthusiasm about the bril- 



liant lectures of Villemain, Guizot, Cousin. It 
was with a sort of passion that he tried to make 
us understand and share his own delight in all he 
heard. He went to read in the public libraries, to 
be able the better to enter into the instruction of 
the illustrious professors. 

During his peregrinations at this period through 
the Quartier Latin he bought, in old book shops 
on the quays, many rare and valuable works, 
which even then he knew how to choose. These 

formed the nucleus of that splendid collection of 
books which his constant relations with book- 
sellers rendered in time complete. Originally it 

had been his intention to bequeath this collection 
of books to his native city ; but his fellow-citizens 
wounded his feelings so deeply by the indifference 
they manifested whenever he visited Tours, that 
he altered his intention. 1 

My father wished Honoré to go through a 
course of legal study for three years with an avoué 
and a notary, and to pass all the examinations, in 

1 M. Brun, prefect in 1856 of the Indre-et-Loire, an old companion 
of my brother at the College of Vendôme, in concert with M. Mame, 
Mayor of Tours, brother of the well-known publisher who published 
Balzac's early works, placed an inscription over the house where 
the author of the ' Comédie humaine ' was born ; it was not, how- 
ever, the house in which he passed his childhood. The house, 
which was my father's, belonged in 1856 to the Comtesse 
d'Outremont, a friend of our family. 


order to obtain a thorough knowledge of all the 
forms, proceedings, and meanings of the practice of 
law. He used to say that the education of no man 
could be complete unless he were acquainted with 
the forms of ancient and modern legislation, more 
especially with those of his own country. 

Honoré accordingly entered the office of our 
friend M. de Merville. M. Scribe had just quitted 
it. After remaining eighteen months with this 
avoué, he was received by M. Passez, a notary, 

with whom he remained for the like period. M. 
Passez was one of our intimate friends, and lived 
in the house where we were residing. This will 
account for the minute fidelity of Balzac's de- 
scriptions of the interior of lawyers offices, and of 
the great legal knowledge he evinces. I once 
found his book ' César Birotteau 9 in the office of a 
lawyer in Paris. It was placed on the shelves along 
with standard works on the law, and the lawyer 
assured me it was an excellent book of reference in 
matters of bankruptcy. 

My brother in those days worked very hard ; 
for, in addition to his cours de droit and the work 
which his employers gave him to do, he had also to 
prepare for his successive examinations. However, 
his industry, his memory, and his facility for work 
were so great that he still found time to spend his 


evenings at the whist or boston table of my 
grandmother, where this dear and excellent woman 
always forced him to be a winner, by means of her 
own mistakes made for the purpose. The money 
thus gained he devoted to buying books. He 
always loved these games, in memory of her ; he 
used to recall her words and ways, and one of 
them unexpectedly remembered always seemed to 
him a happiness snatched from the grave. 

Sometimes my brother used to accompany us 
to balls ; but having one night an ignominious fall, 
in spite of the lessons he had received from one of 
the ballet-masters of the Opera, he renounced danc- 
ing for ever, so keenly did he feel the smiles from 
the women which followed his disaster. After that 
he became merely a spectator at these amusements, 
and in later days he turned the recollection of them 
to use. At the age of twenty-one he had terminated 
his legal studies and passed all his examinations. 
My father unfolded to him his plans for the future, 
which would have enabled Honoré to make a 
fortune : but a fortune was just then the thing he 
cared the least about 

My father had in former days materially 

assisted a man, whom he met with again in 1814 

as a notary in Paris. 

This man was very grateful, and wished to 


repay to the son the benefit he had received from 
the father. He offered to take Honoré into his 
office, and to let him have the whole of his practice, 
after a few years of probation, on advantageous 
terms. But to my brother the idea of being 
bowed down for possibly ten years under the 
drudgery of drawing up marriage contracts, 
inventories, bills of sale, &c, was unbearable — he, 
who was then secretly dreaming of literary fame ! 

He was struck dumb with dismay on hearing 
this grand revelation of my father's project. 
He frankly expressed his own wishes for his 
future course, and then it was my father who was 
dumb with astonishment. 

A warm discussion ensued. Honoré warmly 
controverted the powerful reasons which were 
brought against his own plan, and his looks, words, 
and manner of speaking revealed such a conviction 
of his own vocation that my father at length 
granted him two years in which to give proofs of 
his talent. 

This fine opportunity, which he thus allowed to 
escape, explains the severity with which he was 
treated by his family. Also it accounts for the 
hatred he felt against the whole body of notaries — 
a detestation which is very apparent in some of 
his works. 


My father did not yield without much reluc- 
tance, which was augmented by several vexations 
about money matters. He had just been obliged 
to retire from his post on a pension ; also he had 
lost money in two speculations. In short, we were 
all to go to reside, on a reduced income, at a 
country house he had purchased about six leagues 
from Paris. 

Fathers and mothers will easily understand the 
anxieties felt by my parents under the circum- 
stances. My brother had given, as yet, no proof of 
his literary talent ; and, as his fortune was all to 
make, it seemed only rational to wish him to follow 
a less precarious occupation than that of a writer for 
the press. For one individual who, like Honoré, 
so magnificently vindicated his own faith in his 
self-chosen career, how many mediocrities have 
been thrown upon evil days by a similar yielding 
on the part of their parents ! My father's conde- 
scension to his son's wishes did not fail to be 
treated as weakness, and he was much blamed by 
all who knew us. ' My brother was going to lose 
precious time. What could the profession of litera- 
ture ever do for him ? At the best it would never 
lead to fortune ; and then, had Honoré the making 
of a man of genius in him ?' Everybody doubted it 
greatly. It may be imagined what they would 


have said had my father confided to them the 
opportunity that had been offered to him on his 

One of our friends, who was rather brusque 
and very positive, declared that Honoré was fit 
only for the situation of a copying clerk. The un- 
fortunate youth ' wrote a beautiful hand ' — quoting 
the words of his writing-master when he left 
college — and he advised my father to place him in 
some public office where, with his interest, Honoré 
might soon be in a position to support himself. 

My father judged otherwise of his son ; and, 
having faith in his own theories and believing in 
the intelligence of his children, he only smiled at 
the vehemence of his friend, and remained firm. 

My mother felt less confidence than my father ; 
but she thought that a little poverty and difficulty 
would soon bring Honoré to submission. 

Accordingly, before we left Paris, she installed 
him in a garret, which he had chosen himself, near 
the library of the Arsenal, the only one he did 
not know, and in which he intended to work. 
She furnished it with only the strictest necessaries 
— a bed, a table, and a few chairs. The nominal 
allowance which she proposed to give him was so 
small that it certainly would not, with the most 
rigorous economy, have sufficed for his wants if 


my mother had not charged an old woman, who 
for twenty years had been in the service of our 
family, to watch over him secretly. It is this 
old woman whom in his letters he calls * l'Iris 

The transition from a home where everything 
was abundant, to the solitude of a garret destitute 
of every comfort, was certainly hard. He did not, 
however, complain of the small nook where he 
found his liberty, and to which he carried the 
fervid hopes which his first literary disappoint- 
ments could not extinguish. 

It was at this period that the following corre- 
spondence began. The familiar jestings in the first 
fragments which I quote may seem trivial ; but I 
must not suppress them, because they illustrate in 
a remarkable manner the inner nature of my 
brother, and it is interesting to follow the gradual 
development of a mind like his. In his first 
letter, after enumerating the expenses of house- 
keeping details — given only to let my mother see 
that he was already wanting money — he confides 
to me that he has engaged a servant. 

1 A servant ! but are you in earnest, my 
1 brother ? 

4 Yes, a servant. He has a name as droll as 
' that of the Doctors servant, who is called Quiet. 


' Mine is called Myself {Moi-même). A bad 
' bargain, truly. Moi-même is idle, clumsy, 
1 thoughtless. His master is hungry, is thirsty, 
' and sometimes he has provided neither bread 
' nor water for him. He does not even know how 
1 to keep out the wind which whistles through the 
1 door and the window like Tulou through his 
' flute, but not so pleasantly.' 

In his second letter he apologises for his 
former one, which our mother had thought care 
lessly written. 

1 Tell maman I work so hard that writing to 
' you is my relaxation. Besides — without offence 
' be it said — I go along like Sancho Panza's ass, 
1 browsing on all that comes in my road. I never 
' make a rough copy (the heart knows nothing of 
* rough copies). If I do not put in my stops, if I 
' do not read over what I have written, it is that 
' you may read my letter again, and so be obliged 
' to think of me longer. I will fling my pen to 
' dumb beasts if that is not a touch of finesse 
' worthy of a woman ! ' 

What numberless works he was at that period 
revolving in his brain! Romances, comedies, 
comic operas, tragedies, are on his list of the works 
that he was going to write. He was like a child 
who is so eager to talk that he does not know where 


to begin. ' Stella ' and ' Coqsigrue ' are two of the 
first books he is going to write. Neither of them 
ever saw the light. Amongst the comedies that 
he contemplated writing at this time I recollect 
one called * The Two Philosophers/ which he would 
certainly have resumed in his leisure times. These 
two philosophers mock at each other, and quarrel 
together 'just like friends/ as my brother said 
when speaking of this play. 

Whilst both of these philosophers were pre- 
tending to despise the honours and pleasures of 
the world they struggle against each other to 
obtain them ; they both fail : their respective 
failure reconciles them, and they unite in abusing 
the detestable race of human beings. 

It is impossible to guess for which of his books 
he wanted our fathers copy of Tacitus, the edi- 
tion of which was not in the Arsenal library. 
It is the subject of his third letter. 

' It is absolutely necessary that I should have 
1 my father's copy of Tacitus. He does not want 
1 it now that he is China, or in the Bible/ 

My father was enthusiastic about the Chinese 
(possibly because they are, as a people, so long- 
lived). He was at that time reading the ponder- 
ous works of the Jesuit missionaries, who were the 
first to describe China ; he was also making notes 


on some valuable editions of the Bible which he 
possessed. It was a book which always called 
forth his admiration. 

My father, with a view to spare his son from 
mortification in case he should fail in his hopes, 
gave it out that he was away from Paris. It was 
also a method of keeping him clear of worldly 

M. Villiers, of whom my brother speaks in one 
of his letters from Switzerland, was a very old 
friend of our family. He was an ancient Abbé 
Comte de Lyon, and had retired to Nogent, a litde 
village situated near Tile Adam. My brother 
went to stay with him several times : the witty 
conversation of this good old man, his curious 
anecdotes of the old Court, wherein he had been 
a distinguished personage, and the encouragement 
he gave my brother, whose confidant he was, had 
caused so strong an affection on both sides, that 
Honoré in after days used to call Tile Adam 
i son paradis inspirateur' 

After much hesitation ' Cromwell ' was the 
subject he chose for his first appearance in lite- 
rature. It was to be a classical tragedy. 

1 I have chosen Cromwell because he is the 
' finest subject in modern history. Since I began 
' to meditate on the subject, I have flung myself 


1 into it body and soul ; ideas throng upon me, but 
' I am constantly stopped by my want of skill in 
' versification. I shall have bitten all my nails to 
4 the quick before I have completed this first 
1 monument of my genius. If you only could 
' understand all the difficulties of these works ! 
' The great Racine spent two whole years in 
' polishing and finishing " Phèdre," that despair of 
' poets. Two years ! two years ! Do you realise 
' all those words mean ? — two years ! ' 

His hopes began to be often mixed with 

' Ah, sister, what tortures I endure ! I shall 
1 petition the Pope to give me the first martyr's 
' niche which becomes vacant I have just dis- 
' covered a defect in the construction of my 
' regicide play, and it swarms throughout with 
1 bad verses. I feel to-day that I am a real pater 
( doloroso! 

He sent me the plan of his tragedy in the 
strictest confidence ; he intended to surprise the 
rest of the family when it should be finished. At 
the top of his letter was written, ' For yourself 
1 alone.' 

1 It is not a small gift nor a slight proof of 
' friendship I am giving you, in thus permitting 
' you to assist at the birth of genius (laugh if you 


' feel inclined). As at present this is only a plan, I 
€ have left a margin on the paper, upon which you 
1 can write your own sublime observations. 

' But, in spite of this great privilege, I expect 
' that your ladyship will read with due respect this 
'plan of Sophocles the younger. 

' Only to think that one may read in an hour 
1 what it has required whole years to write ! ' 

Many months passed in this work. He was 
constantly writing to me in alternations of hope 
and fear. 

Graver thoughts began to mingle with his 
juvenile gaiety. 

1 I have exchanged the Jardin des Plantes for 
1 Père la Chaise. The Jardin des Plantes is too 
' melancholy. During my walks in Père la Chaise 
' I find many good consoling and inspiring reflec- 
1 tions, and I have made there studies of sorrow 

* which will be useful in " Cromwell." True sorrow 
' is so difficult to describe ; it requires so much 
1 simplicity. 

1 The only good epitaphs are those contained 
' in a name — La Fontaine — Masséna — Molière — 
' one single name — which says everything and 

* makes one ponder over it/ 

He, too, ponders over those great men of 
whom, during their lifetime, the world thought 


nothing, and understood neither their ideas nor 
their works, and his heart grew pitiful over them. 

1 Mediocrity will always find consolation in the 
1 biography of great men/ 

He especially enjoyed standing upon the height 
whence there is a view over the whole of Paris. 
It is on this spot that Rastignac seats himself 
after he has paid the last duties to ' le père Goriot' 
Balzac himself lies buried here. He often ques- 
tioned, when thinking of the illustrious dead who 
lay sleeping round him, whether a day would come 
when his grave also would be visited. In the 
days when he felt hopeful, he would exclaim, like 
Rastignac — 

1 This world is mine, because I understand 

Then he would return home to his garret, 
1 where it was as dark as an oven, and where, 
without me, nobody would see anything/ 

Like his own Desplein in c La Messe de 
l'Athée/ he complains that the oil for his lamp 
costs more than his bread ; but he never tired of 
his garret. 

' The time I may spend here will always be a 
1 source of pleasant recollections. To live after my 
* own fashion — to work according to my inclination 
1 and in my own way — to do nothing when so 


* disposed — to dream of the future, which I 
1 always make beautiful — to think of you, know- 
' ing you to be happy — to have for my mis- 
' tress the Julie of Rousseau ; La Fontaine and 
' Molière for my friends ; Racine for a master ; and 
1 Père la Chaise for my daily walk. Ah, if this 
1 would only last for ever ! ' 

The opinion of the friend who thought him fit 
for nothing but to be 'a copying clerk ' some- 
times troubled his mind ; then he would exclaim 
indignantly — 

1 I will give that man the lie ! ' 

When he had at length proved this friend's 
judgment wrong, the only revenge he took was 
to dedicate to him one of his finest works. 

Neither did he forget the satirical smiles with 
which the women had greeted his tumble at the 
ball, and he vowed to make them smile upon him 
after another fashion. 

These thoughts redoubled his ardour for 
work. Small circumstances often lead to great 
results ; they do not create a vocation, but they 
spur the man on to follow it. 

There was another letter sufficiently remark- 
able for me to remember ; it was evidently written 
for my mother, and it was no doubt given to 
her, as it is missing from my collection. In it 

vol. 1. . D 


he begins dimly to discern the different horizons 
of social life, and the obstacles which in every 
career a man must encounter and overcome be- 
fore he can make his way through the crowd 
which is struggling in the same direction, and 
blocking up the road. He does not dissimulate 
the difficulties of the literary profession, but he 
argues that difficulties exist everywhere ; therefore 

why should not a man be left free to follow the 
vocation for which he feels an irresistible attrac- 
tion ? That was the moral of the letter. 

I will transcribe one last fragment of this corre- 
spondence dated from his garret ; it was written 
in April 1820, and is curious as showing his lucid 
insight into things around him. 

I I am more engrossed than ever with my 
1 career, for many reasons, but I will only mention 
1 those which it is possible you may not have per- 
' ceived. Our revolutions are far from being at 
1 an end, and, from the way things are going on, I 
1 foresee a great many more storms in the future. 

1 Whether it be good or bad, the representa- 
1 tive system requires immense talent ; and great 
1 writers will be called for in all times of political 
' crisis, for do they not unite to their literary faculty 
1 the spirit of observation and a profound know- 
1 ledge of human nature ? If I became a gaillard^ 


1 (which is by no means certain), I may some 
1 day achieve the title of " great citizen " as well a£ 
' that of a great writer. It is an ambition one 
' " may lawfully indulge." ' 

The scene was now about to change, and his 
first disappointments were to take' the place of his 
early anticipations. 

Towards the end of April 1820, my brother 
returned to his father's house with his tragedy 

He was in high spirits. He felt so assured 
of his triumph that he requested some of our 
friends might be invited to hear him read ' Crom- 
well/ more especially that friend whose judgment 
of him had been so disparaging. 

The friends arrived, and the solemn ordeal 

The enthusiasm of the reader cooled visibly 
as he went on, and began to feel that he made no 
impression on the frozen and downcast faces of 
those who were listening. 

' Cromwell * was not to be his ' revenge ' 

upon M. , who, abrupt as usual, gave his 

opinion of the tragedy in no measured terms. 
Honoré did not accept his judgment, but the 
others who had heard the work read were agreed, 

P 2 


although they spoke more gently, in considering it 
4 very imperfect.' 

My father listened to all that was said, and 
he proposed that ' Cromwell ' should be submitted 
to a competent judge. M. Surville, the engineer 
of the Canal de l'Ourcq, who was about to become 
Honorés brother-in-law, proposed his old pro- 
fessor of the Ecole Polytechnique. My brother 
accepted this literary veteran as his sovereign 

The good old man, after reading it with con- 
scientious care, declared that the writer might fol- 
low any profession he pleased, ' except that of lite- 

Honoré received this judgment without flinch- 
ing. He did not feel that he had been beaten. 

1 Tragedies are not in my line, that is all/ and 
he quietly returned to his labours. 

Fifteen months of life in a garret had, how- 
ever, made him so thin, that my mother insisted 
upon keeping him at home, where she watched 
over him with tender solicitude. 

During the next five years, whilst thus at 
home, he wrote more than forty volumes. He con- 
sidered them all as more or less imperfect attempts, 
and he published them under various pseudonymes, 
out of respect for the name of De Balzac, already 


celebrated, and to which he wished to add fresh 
lustre. Mediocrity is not so modest. 

I shall abstain from giving the titles of these 
early works, in obedience to his expressed desire. 

In spite of the material comfort he enjoyed in 

his father s house, Honoré never ceased to regret 
his dear garret, where he had enjoyed the quiet 

and freedom he could not have in the bustling 
family circle, which, masters and servants included, 
amounted to ten persons, all in movement, round 
him ; and even when he was at work he 
could not get away from the noise made by the 
wheels of the domestic machinery, which the vigi- 
lant and indefatigable mistress kept constantly in 

Eighteen months after he had been reinstated 
in his father's house, I was residing for a short 
time at Bayeux, and our correspondence recom- 

My brother in the midst of his relatives speaks 
much more about them than about himself, and 
he speaks with the freedom that perfect confidence 

In some of his letters there are scenes of 
domestic life and conversations which might have 
been pages from ' La Comédie humaine/ 

In one of these letters he compares my father 


to the pyramids of Egypt, motionless in the midst 
of the whirlwinds of the desert sand. 

In another he tells me of the approaching 
marriage of my sister Laurentia. His portraits of 
her, of her fiancé, his description of the en- 
thusiasm of the whole family for this second son- 
in-law, are all drawn with the hand of a master : 
he has already found the pen of Balzac. 

The letter concludes with these lines : — 

' We are all proud originals in our holy 
1 family. What a pity that I cannot put all of us 
4 into a novel ! * 

I shall only extract from these letters the 
passages that relate to my brother. In the fol- 
lowing occurs his first attack of discouragement ; 
as he advances in life he feels the difficulties of the 
way : — 

1 You ask me to give you details of the fête, 
' and to-day I can feel only the sorrows of my 
' heart. I am the most unhappy of all the unhappy 
1 wretches who live miserably under the sparkling 
* celestial roof of the world which the Eternal has 
' made so bright and built with His powerful hands. 

1 An account of fêtes ! it is a sorrowful litany 
' which I have to send you instead/ 

In his next letter my brother announces his 
third and fourth novels. 


* I send you two new works, which are still 

very bad and very inartistic. You will find 

1 in one of them some rather droll passages 

' and some types of character, but a detestable 

• plot ' 

He certainly judged himself far too severely. 
These works contained, it is true, only the promise 
of his genius, but there was evidence of so much 
improvement in these latter works, that he might 
have signed his name to them without any detri- 
ment to his future reputation. 

Happily for him his moods changed quickly, 
and he soon recovered from his fit of de- 
spondency. The next letters I received were full 
of exuberance and gaiety. His novels began to 
bring him in better payment, whilst at the same 
time they cost him less effort to write, 

' If you only knew how little trouble it is to 
' invent the plot of those stories, to give titles to 
1 the chapters, and to fill the sheets of blank paper 
1 which has to be written upon/ 

At this time he was full of schemes and hopes 
for the future ; he beheld himself as already become 
a rich and a married man. He began to desire to 
make a fortune, but only as the means to an end. 
He would describe the ideal wife he wished to 
find, and his thoughts about conjugal happiness 


were certainly not those of a man who was con- 
sidering ' La Physiologie du Mariage/ 

To distract me from the depression of home- 
sickness, caused by the distance which separated 
me from my family, he would invent a thousand 
stories for me, scolding me for my low spirits, 
quoting from Rabelais, and finishing with the 
praises of ' Roger Bontemps/ 

At another time he would tell me all the news 
of the village in a wild spirit running over with 

' Every neighbour complains of his neighbour/ 
and he makes dialogue and talk for all the 

Already he had become a seeker after secrets, 
an explorer of the human heart ; delicate touches 
of criticism, subtle remarks, and wise reflections 
come to the surface in the midst of his gaiety. 
These witty chronicles excite laughter and betray 
that he already possessed that touch of Rabelaism 
which distinguished him from all other writers of 
his time. 

' I am about to write to you to-day upon 
' matters of the gravest importance. It is nothing 
1 less than to try to learn what people will think of 
' us. You will perhaps fancy from this beginning 
1 that I am anxious to know what Bayeux, Caen, 


1 and the whole of Normandy think of my charm- 
' ing books ? Well, yes, but the matter in hand is 
1 of much more importance than that ! It is 
1 nothing less than an idea which my mother has 
1 taken into her head to come and pay you a visit, 
1 and here are the problems you must solve in 
1 your reply . . / 

He went to pay a visit to Tile Adam, and 
whilst there he attended the funeral of a medical 
man, such a one as he describes in the ' Médecin 
de Campagne/ This man, whom he had known 
during his previous visits, the benefactor of the 
country round, beloved and regretted by all, 
furnished him with the idea of this work. 

This man, now dead, was to become one day 
the living M. Bénassis. 

Wherever my brother went he studied towns, 
villages, country places, and all who inhabited them, 
gathering up the words which expressed a 
character or summed up a situation. 

He gave the trivial name of his ' Larder ' to 
the book in which he made notes of all the things 
that struck him. 

But although for a short time Honoré had been 
lulled by hope, he was soon awakened from his 
dreams by stern realities. His novels not only 
did not make him rich, but they did not even 


supply him with necessaries. The family was fast 
losing all faith in him, and began to talk of the 

necessity of taking some decided step. 

That my brother should have succeeded in 
getting his books published at all, was in itself no 
inconsiderable success ; it proved not only that his 
abilities were beyond those of ordinary men, but 
also that he possessed remarkable powers of 

The publisher is an intractable personage for 
the poor beginner, who is usually bowed out of his 
presence with the disheartening phrase, ' You are 
quite unknown, and yet you ask me to publish 
your books/ How to become celebrated without 
having done anything is a problem difficult of 
solution, unless a man can come upon the battle- 
field of literature with the force of a ball fired from 
a cannon, and as yet my brother did not feel that 
his works had received this impelling force. He 
knew no one who could give him any help except 
an old college friend who had since become a 
magistrate, and who had written his first novel at 
the same time as my brother ; no one else gave 
him any help or encouragement. 

. Fearing he might be constrained to accept for 
a permanence the fetters of dependence in which 
he was held so long as he continued under his 


father's roof, and of which he felt ashamed, he 
resolved to undertake certain speculations, in the 
hope, if they succeeded, of gaining his liberty. It 
was in 1823, and my brother was then nearly five- 

Now began a series of disasters which 
brought on the misfortunes of his after life. Few 
people are aware that my brother expended as 
much energy and intelligence in his struggles 
against misfortune as were required to produce 
1 La Comédie humaine/ the work which gained 
for him that celebrity which was the most 
ardent desire of his heart. Those who were in 
the secret of his life asked with pitiful wonder and 
reverence how any man could find the time, the 
physical endurance, and, above all, the moral 
strength of purpose sufficient to support such an 
enormous amount of hard and heavy work. 

If only his modest request had been granted 
for an allowance of fifteen hundred francs until he 
had attained his first success, his family would 
have spared him many adversities, and themselves 
likewise. Energetic and patient, as true genius 
always is, he would have returned to his garret, 
where this income would have been sufficient for 
his wants. Extreme in his desires, he required 


either a palace or a garret ; he loved luxury, but 
he could do very well without it 

I will abridge the dry details of the events that 
followed as much as possible, but they are neces- 
sary to explain the misfortunes in which he became 
involved, and which are so little known that even 
his friends attributed his difficulties to foolish 
extravagances of which he was quite innocent. 

When Honoré went to Paris at this period he 
went to lodgings which my father still held there. 
He became intimate with a neighbour, to whom he 
confided the annoyance and chagrin caused by his 
precarious position. This neighbour, a man of 
business, advised him to enter into some good 
speculation, which would set him free from his 
state of dependence, and lent him the money to 
undertake the same. 

Balzac, thus transformed into a speculator, 
began as a publisher. He was the first who was 
struck with the idea of publishing compact editions 
of standard works, an idea which has since proved 
very profitable to booksellers. He published in 
one volume complete editions of the works of 
Molière and La Fontaine. He published both of 
these authors at the same time, because he was 
afraid that one would be snatched from him whilst 
he was busy upon the other. 


These editions did not succeed, because he 
was a quite obscure person, and the rest of the 
trade refused either to buy or to receive his books 
for sale. 

The sum that had been lent to him was quite 
insufficient to meet the expenses of the numerous 
advertisements . which might have attracted pur- 
chasers. These editions remained entirely un- 
known, and a year after they came out my brother 
had not disposed of twenty copies. 

In order to put an end to the expense of ware- 
house room for the books remaining on hand, 
where they lay piled up and completely buried, 
he sold them by weight for waste paper — that 

beautiful paper which it had cost him so dear to 
cover with print. 

Instead of gaining any money by this first 
venture Honoré realised nothing but a debt It 
was the first instalment of that experience which 
in later days gave him such an insight into men 
and things. 

His next speculation was to become a printer. 
The same friend who had lent him money for 
the publishing business was anxious that my 
brother shouldtake to some business which offered 
a chance of repairing the loss. He introduced 
Honoré to one of his relations, who had made a 


large fortune as a printer. My brother received the 
best information on all points ; he grew enthusiastic 
about printing. He wished to become a printer 
himself ; there would be no necessity for him to 
give up writing books. He thought of Richardson, 
who became rich both as a printer and an author ; 
he foresaw new ' Clarissas ' issuing from his press. 

My brother's creditor was quite satisfied with 
this project, and he undertook to obtain the con- 
sent of our parents. He succeeded. My father 
gave Honoré, as his portion of what fortune he 
might expect, the capital of the fifteen hundred 
francs which he had once asked for as an allow- 
ance to enable him to devote himself to literature. 

Honoré took as a partner a young man who 
had attracted his notice when he was publishing 
his first novels. This young man was now married 
and the father of a family, and my brother felt 
interested in him ; but unfortunately he could only 
contribute the practical knowledge, which my 
brother did not possess. Honoré imagined that 
the skill and zeal of his associate would be equiva- 
lent to his contribution to the capital. 

A printing license cost dear in the days of 
Charles X. ; and when the cost of the license was 
paid, the type and paper bought, there was very 
little money left in hand for working expenses. 


The young printers installed themselves with 
sanguine hopes in the Rue des Marais, St. Germain. 
They accepted all orders that came in ; payments 
did not follow so readily, and the balance between 
in-comings and out-goings was not equal ; they 
soon began to be straightened for money. 

About this time an opportunity offered itself 
for acquiring a type foundry on excellent terms, 
which competent judges declared would be an 
excellent investment. Honoré did not hesitate to 
become the purchaser. He hoped by uniting the 
two concerns to find either a third partner or to 
be able to raise a loan. He made immense efforts, 
but he could obtain neither the one nor the other, 
because his first creditor had the first claim upon 
all there was to be had. 

Bankruptcy was imminent. Honoré went 
through anguish of mind that he never forgot, and 
at length was obliged to have recourse once more 
to his own family. 

My father and mother recognised the gravity 
of the crisis and came to his assistance. But after 
some months of continued sacrifice of money, and 
fearing lest they should be involved in ruin along 
with their son, they stopped short and refused to 
furnish any further funds at the very moment 
when things seemed to be coming round. Honoré 


could not convince his parents of the almost 
certainty of success which he saw near at hand ; 
he was obliged to make a forced sale of the whole 
concern. His difficulties were so well known, and 
the prices offered were so low that to accept them 
involved the loss of everything except the honour 
of his name. However, to avoid bankruptcy, 
which would have killed his old father and thrown 
a slight upon his own life, he gave the printing 
office and the foundry to one of his friends for the 
price that had been bid for them. He at least 
secured the prosperity of his friend, for his pre- 
visions were fully justified ; there was a fortune in 
the foundry alone. 

The proceeds of the sale were not sufficient to 
discharge all the debts connected with the concern. 
My mother advanced the money required. 
Honoré retired from the printing business 
burdened with many debts, and my mother figured 
in the list as the principal creditor. 

It was now near the close of the year 1827. 
Our parents had sold their country place, and 
were residing near us at Versailles, where M. 
Surville was the engineer of the department of the 
Seine-et-Oise. H onoré was then nearly twenty-nine 
years of age. At that time he possessed nothing 
but debts, and his pen, which was his sole chance 


of paying them. No one at this period recognised 
the value of this pen. 

Those who knew him and had dealings with 
him considered him a man who would never 
do any good for himself — un incapable, a fatal 
epithet which freezes up all the goodwill of 
others, and often brings the last stroke of ruin 
upon an unfortunate man. It was denying that 
force of judgment and clear, quick insight into men 
and things which he knew he possessed. 

This want of faith exasperated my brother a 
great deal more than the criticisms brought to 
bear upon his talents as an author, and which 
buzzed about him, especially from friends, even 
after he had given brilliant proofs of his genius in 
1 Louis Lambert " and ' Le Médecin de Campagne/ 

His friends tormented him more than his 
enemies ; some of them would say — 

1 Well, Balzac, when are you going to give us 
some really good book ? ' 

In their eyes Balzac was merely an author of 
books of a very slight calibre, a writer of second- 
rate romances, not a man of solid attainments. 
If he had only written some heavy work, so solid 
in learning that very few could have understood 
i t, people would have felt respect for him* 

Then, again, whilst abusing him for writing 
vou i t E 


only works of light literature, they taxed him with 
arrogance whenever he ventured to touch upon 
vital questions, and warned him in paternal tones 
against such presumptuous rashness. 

' Why,' said they, ' should you meddle with high 
' social or political questions ? Leave all those to 
philosophers and political economists. You are a 
man who, as we all agree, possesses plenty of 
imagination ; be content with that, and do not 
travel out of your speciality. A novel-writer is 
not expected to be either a learned man or a law- 

Observations of this kind, repeated in various 
forms by people who were far from being able to 
understand the strength that lay in him, exas- 
perated him greatly. 

1 1 shall have to die,' he would say bitterly, 
1 before I can convince people of what I am worth/ 

If I seem to attach too much importance to 
these small judgments, which have been long since 
put to silence, it is only because they made up the 
minor miseries of him whose life I am relating. 

My brother, wounded and worried by the 
incessant repetition of unjust judgments, took the 
course of never defending nor explaining his ideas, 
his books, nor his own actions ; the result was, 
that people got into the habit of blaming both 


without in the least understanding either. He 
walked straight onwards to the aim he had in view ; 
he went on alone, without support, without 
encouragement, along a road which his two 
disasters had filled with thorns and pitfalls. 

But these thoughts have carried me away, and 
it is necessary to return to the year 1827, the 
period when my brother quitted the printing office 
and hired a lodging in the Rue Tournon. 

It was here that Honoré wrote ' Les 
Chouans,' the first work to which he signed his 
name. Very much occupied and fatigued with 
hard work, he seldom came out to Versailles. Our 
parents were displeased, and complained of his 
negligence. I wrote to tell him of this. My letter 
must have come to hand at a moment when he 
was worn out with fatigue ; for he, who was always 
so sweet-tempered and patient, answered in a tone 
of bitterness — 

' Your letter has given me two detestable days 
1 and two equally bad nights. 

1 I thought over my justification point by point. 
1 Like the memorial Mirabeau wrote to his father, 
1 I began to grow eager over this work, but I 
1 threw it up. I have not the time for it, my sister ; 
1 and, besides, I do not feel that I have done any 
1 thing wrong/ 

E 2 


A few days afterwards I received a second 
letter, which I transcribe, because it shows his 
character. It seems that he needed two screens 
to finish the furnishing of that lodging, for taking 
which he had already been reproached with extra- 

He desired to have these screens much as he 
had desired to have his father's copy of Tacitus 
years before, when living in his garret. 

1 Ah, Laura, if you only knew how wildly I 
desire to have those screens (but motus) — those 
two blue screens embroidered with black (but 
again motus) ! 

1 In the midst of my worries the thought of these 
screens constantly returned ; then I said to my- 
self, " I will confide this my desire to Sister Laura. 
When I once obtain these screens I can never do 
anything wrong. For shall I not always have 
before my eyes this memorial of a sister who is 
so indulgent for her own fancies and so severe 
upon mine ? " The designs on these screens 
may be whatever you please. They would have 
I know not what charm ; I should always find 
them lovely ; they would be the gift of my alma 

Here he was interrupted by the arrival of some 
bad news. He goes on in his letter to tell me of 


these fresh worries with a vehement warmth of 
words, but he ends with these two lines — 

1 My screens ! always my screens ! I have 
1 more need than ever of one little pleasure in the 
' midst of so many vexations.' 
V ' Les Chouans ' was published, and this work, 
although at first very imperfect, and to which later 
he added some masterly touches, revealed even 
then such wonderful talent that it attracted public 
attention and the notice of the press, which at 
first showed itself very favourable towards him. 

Encouraged by this his first success, he set to 
work with renewed vigour. 

He continued in his retirement, going nowhere, 
hence the same complainings from our parents and 
the same warnings from myself. 

Possibly he was feeling content with his own 
work when my letter came to hand ; at any rate he 
replied to it this time in a lively tone. 

' Your scoldings, madam, lie before me. I 
1 see that it has again become necessary to send 
' you some further information concerning the poor 
1 delinquent 

' Dear sister, Honoré is a blundering crea- 
1 ture, bowed down under his debts, without having 
1 committed a single folly. He is sometimes 
• tempted to knock his head against the wall, though 


1 some persons will not allow that he has any head 
1 at all. He is at this moment a prisoner in his 
' room with a duel upon his hands. It is abso- 
' lutely necessary that he should fight with half a 
1 ream of paper, and pierce it through with ink 
' which must be readable, before he can make his 
' purse plump and joyful.' 

My brother passed the first years of his literary 
life in the midst of anxieties which were even 
worse than those he had suffered in the Rue des 
Marais, St Germain ; he never could pass down 
that street without a sigh and the recollection that 
the misfortunes of his life had commenced there. 

He confessed to me that during this period he 
was frequently subject to attacks of dizziness and 
to temptations such as he represents as endured 
by the hero of that work so full of freshness and 
genius which he has called 'La Peau de Cha- 

Assuredly if it had not been for his own faith 
in himself, and the consciousness that honour 
demanded he should acquit himself of his liabilities, 
he would never have lived to write ' La Comédie 

If he did not retire again to some retreat like 
his garret in the Rue Lesdiguières, it was because 
he knew that in Paris people try to make money 


out of everything, even out of other men's 

' In a garret/ as he once said to me, ' I should 
get nothing for my books.' 

The luxury to which he was inclined, which 
was so much blamed and so much exaggerated, 
was in reality at that time a method by which he 
hoped to obtain a better price for his works. 

My brother was an enthusiastic admirer of Sir 
Walter Scott, and at first he had the idea of 
following his example, taking the most remark- 
able phases of the history of France ; for illustra- 
tion, € Catherine de Médicis ' followed ' Les 
Chouans.' It is one of his best works, though 
comparatively unknown. 

The introduction shows what Balzac might 
have been as a historian, had he so chosen. 

He afterwards abandoned this project, and 
confined himself to painting the manners of his 
own time, of which in his later years he wished to 
write the history. 1 

He called his works ' Etudes de Mœurs,' and 
divided them into several series — ' Scènes de la 
Vie privée,' ' de la Vie de Campagne,' ' de la Vie de 

1 Some inaccuracies in the chronological order of Balzac's 
works have crept into Madame Surville's narrative,, but they will 
be found rectified in the list of his works, which comes at the end 
of the correspondence. 


Province/ 'de la Vie Parisienne/ &c. It was not 
until 1833, after the publication of 'Le Médecin 
de Campagne/ that the thought struck him of 
gathering the different personages of his works 
together and forming them into a world amongst 

It was a fortunate day for him when this idea 
came to him. 

He set out from the Rue Cassini, where he then 
lived, and rushed to the Faubourg Poissonnière, 
where I resided. 

' Congratulate me ! ' he exclaimed joyfully, 
1 for this time I really am going to prove myself a 
man of genius/ 

He then began to unfold his plan, which, how- 
ever, seemed somewhat formidable even to his 
vast brain, and it required some time before it was 
comfortably arranged there. 

1 What a fine work it will be, if I succeed/ said 
he, walking up and down the room, his face radiant 
with delight (he could not sit still). c How easily 
I can now bear to be called a mere novelist whilst 
I am hewing my stones ; and how I enjoy the 
thought of the surprise of the near-sighted public 
when they see the great edifice these stones will 
build/ This ' hewer of stones ' then sat down to 
speak of the work more at his ease. 


He judged all the personages who were to 
play a part in it with perfect impartiality, in spite 
of the affection he felt for them all. 

4 So-and-so is a scoundrel, and will never do 
any good. Such a one is a brave fellow ; he works 
hard ; he will become rich, and his good disposition 
will make him happy/ 

4 All those other men have committed plenty of 
peccadilloes, but they have so much strength of 
character, and so much power of insight into men 
and things, that they cannot help rising into the 
high places of the world/ 

' Peccadilloes ! You are very indulgent to call 
them thus/ 

' What would you have, my dear ? I cannot 
change their nature. These are the men who drop 
their own lead down into the lower deep, but they 
know how to guide others. It is not the wisest 
men who are always the best pilots. It is no fault 
of mine ; I do not invent human nature ; I observe 
it in times past and in the present, and I endea- 
vour to show it as it really is. Imposture in these 
matters imposes upon nobody/ 

He would tell us news from the world of ' La 
Comédie humaine ' just as people tell the news of 
the world we live in. 


4 Have you heard/ he would say, ' whom Félix 


de Vandenesse is about to marry ? It is a Mdlle. 
de Grandville. It will be a capital match for 
him : the Grandvilles are rich, notwithstanding all 
that Mdlle. de Bellefeuille has cost the family/ 

If sometimes we interceded for some young 
man who was on the road to ruin, or for some 
poor unhappy woman whose sad fate interested us, 
he would say — 

1 Do not deafen me with your sentimentalities ; 
truth comes before everything : those people are 
weak and incapable ; what happens to them must 
happen ; so much the worse for them ! ' 

His petulance, however, did not hinder 
him from feeling a little compassion for them 

One of the friends of Dr. Minoret (Captain de 
Jordy) excited our curiosity. My brother had 
said nothing about his previous life, but had given 
it to be understood that he had experienced 
great misfortunes, and we asked what they were. 

' I was not acquainted with M. de Jordy pre- 
vious to his arrival at Nemours/ he replied. 

I one day tried to imagine what might have 
been the previous life of Captain de Jordy, and I 
related it to my brother. Such a preoccupation 
about his characters did not displease him. 

' What you suggest is quite possible/ said he ; 


' and since M. de Jordy interests you, I will some 
day find out all about him/ 

It was a long time before he could meet with a 
suitable husband for Mdlle. Camille de Grandlieu. 
He rejected all whom we suggested. 

'Those people are not in the same class of 
society/ said he ; ' chance alone could bring about 
such a marriage, and in books one must make 
use of chance very sparingly. Fact alone can jus- 
tify improbability ; romance-writers can only be 
allowed to make use of the possible.' 

He selected at last the young Count de Res- 
taud for Mdlle. Camille de Grandlieu, and for this 
purpose he wrote afresh the very admirable his- 
tory of Gobseck, where the highest morality is 
worked out in deeds and not in words. 

As mothers love the best those children who 
are unfortunate, my brother had a tenderness for 
those of his works which had the least success ; 
he felt jealous for them of the success of the 
others. Thus the universal admiration called 
forth by ' Eugénie Grandet ' had the effect of 
making him in the end care very little for this 
work. When we scolded him for this injustice 
he would say — 

" ' Just leave me alone ! Those who call me the 
father of " Eugénie Grandet " want to disparage me. 


It is, I grant you, a masterpiece in its way, but a 
very insignificant one. They take good care not 
to quote my best things.' 

When the complete edition of his works was 
printed he called the whole ' La Comédie 
humaine/ He decided on this title after much 
hesitation ; he feared it might be considered pre- 
sumptuous, and he had the presentiment he should 
not live to carry out his design to the full. Un- 
happily his presentiment was verified ; the work he 
loved so much was never finished. It was then 
that he associated his friends with himself by dedi- 
cating to each of them one of the books of which the 
work is composed. The list of these dedications 
shows that he was beloved by a great number of 
his most illustrious contemporaries. 

Between the years 1827 and 1848 my brother 
published no less than ninety-seven works, and this 
enormous quantity of writing was done without 
the help of any secretary or corrector of the press. 

For a short time my brother was attracted by 
the phenomena of spiritualism. My mother, who 
was always religious, had made a collection of the 
writings of the Mystics. Honoré seized upon 
the works of St. Martin, Swedenborg, Mdlle. 
Bourignon, Madame Guyon, Jacob Boehm, 


making about a hundred volumes, and he de- 
voured them all. He plunged into the study of 
somnambulism and mesmerism, which are allied 
with mysticism ; and my mother, who was an 
ardent lover of the marvellous, encouraged and 
assisted him, for she was acquainted with all the 
celebrated somnambulists and magnetisers of the 

Honoré was present at several séances ; he be- 
came deeply interested in these inexplicable facul- 
ties and their phenomena, and he composed the 
strange story of ' Séraphita ' under the influence of 
these ideas. 

But the strong necessities of his life obliged 
him to work only upon subjects which interested 
the public and would sell, and, happily for himself, 
he was brought back from these metaphysical 
mysteries into the real world before his fine mind 
had been bewildered and lost its balance, as so 
many other high intellects have been ruined from 
the like cause. 

But I must hasten on, and abridge details as 
much as possible. The mere recollection of the 
labours and events connected with the last twenty 
years of Balzac's life terrifies me. 

Besides the books he wrote, he had to carry 


on a voluminous business correspondence, as well 
as with friends. 

During this period he made journeys into 
Savoy, Sardinia, Corsica, Germany, Italy, St. 
Petersburg, Southern Russia, which he visited 
twice; besides the journeys he made into the 
interior of France, to visit all the spots which he 
had made the residence of the various characters 
in his books, that he might be able to describe 
accurately the towns and country places where he 
had made them dwell. 

Coming in to take leave of us, he would say — 

• I am starting for Alençon, for Grenoble, where 
Mdlle. Cormon and M. Bénasis live.' 

Impossibility, either as a word or as a 
reality, did not exist for him. He proved this by 
the courage with which he lived through the early 
years of his literary life, when he would often 
deprive himself of common necessaries to obtain 
superfluities which occupied so important a place 
in the kind of society of which he wrote. The 
remembrance of this period recalls so vividly to 
my mind so much intense anxiety that I cannot 
bear to look back upon it 

Between the years 1827-36 my brother had 
been obliged to raise money by giving bills, the 
falling due of which was the cause of perpetual 


anxiety to him, because he could only meet them 
by the produce of his works, and it was always 
uncertain when he would be able to finish any of 
them. After having accepted and got these bills 
discounted, which was the first difficulty, he often 
had to get them renewed, which was more difficult 
still ; and he had to do it all himself, without any 
intermediaries, for they would have been sure to 
fail. But my brother could fascinate everybody, 
even money-lenders. 

' What a waste of intellect ! ' he would sorrow- 
fully exclaim on his return, broken with fatigue, 
from one of these undertakings, which were also 
an interruption of his work. 

With all his efforts he could not keep down the 
debts to the money-lenders, nor the accumulated 
interest upon them, which, as he used to say when 
he was in lively spirits, resembled a snow-ball, 
which grows bigger the longer it rolls ; and this 
floating debt grew so large as months and years 
passed on, that there were times when my brother 
was tempted to despair of ever being able to ex- 
tinguish it. 

From time to time, to appease the most 
clamorous of his creditors, he would make super- 
human efforts, and performed such prodigies of 
work that both publishers and printers were 


terrified. These excesses of labour shortened his 
life, and developed that disease of the heart of 
which he died. 

This state of anxiety lasted till the new editions 
of his works enabled him to cancel some of his 
most pressing liabilities. 

His joy was great* when he could write off 
some of the cyphers of this terrible debt, which 
was incessantly before his eyes, goading him on 
to work. 

' After so many labours/ he would say to me, 
' shall I ever possess a penny of my very own ? I 
will certainly have it framed, for it will contain in 
itself the record of my whole life/ 

During the years 1832-35 he visited in 
Angoulême, Aix, Sache, Marseilles, and Milan. 
His letters from those places show the state of his 

Angoulême was the town where the family of 
Carraud resided, under whose roof my brother 
often stayed. A warm friendship between my 
brother and this honourable family had begun in 
1826, when I was living at Versailles. M. Carraud 
was at that time the director of the studies at the 
military school of St Cyr. This faithful and 
intelligent friendship was one of the great blessings 
of my brother's life. Those of his works which 


are dated from Angoulême and from Fapesle — 
an estate which belonged to Madame Carraud in 
Berry — bear testimony to the profound sympathy 
which existed. 

Sache is a beautiful estate about seven leagues 
from Tours. It belonged to M. de Margonne, a 
friend of our family. At this place Honoré was 
always sure of finding a noble hospitality as well 
as an unchanging affection. With these friends 
he had the quiet and ease of mind which he could 
never find in Paris. It was at Sache that he 
wrote ' Louis Lambert/ ' Le Lys dans la Vallée/ 
'La Recherche de l'Absolu/ and several other 
works which at this moment I do not remember. 

After finishing ' Louis Lambert ' my brother 
left Angoulême to visit Savoy. I possess two 
letters written from Aix, one to my mother and 
one to myself. To my mother he writes : — 

'Aix : September 1, 1832. 

' I was deeply touched by reading your letter, 
' my dear mother, and I love you for it. When 
1 shall I ever be able to make a return to you in 
1 tenderness and happiness for all you have done 

In his letter to me he says : — 

'Aix : September 15. 

1 A word of remembrance for you, my beloved 
1 sister, in the midst of my travels. I have been 

VOL, I, F 


1 through the most lovely countries. I shall 
1 see places still more beautiful. Only I want to tell 
1 you that they do not make me forget you. 

1 I am on the threshold of Italy, and I am 
1 afraid lest I should yield to the temptation of 
1 going forwards. The journey would not be very 
' expensive. I should travel with the Fitz-James 
1 family, who would let me enjoy all possible 
1 advantages. They are more than good to me. I 
' should perform the journey in their carriage ; and, 
' calculating all expenses, it would not cost more 
1 than a thousand francs to go from Geneva to 
1 Rome.' 

But on further calculation the journey threa- 
tened to cost too much. He gave up the project 
for the time and returned to Angoulême, where 
he finished ' La Femme abandonnée/ wrote ' La 
Grenadière ' and ' Le Message,' and began ' Le 
Médecin de Campagne/ which he finished when 
he got back to the Rue Cassini. 

My brother, to oblige himself to take the 
exercise which was essential for his health, was 
accustomed to fetch his proofs, and correct them 
sometimes at the printing office, sometimes at my 
house. According to the state of the weather, 
which had an immense influence over him, the 
difficulty of his work, or the extreme fatigue of 


late hours, he would sometimes arrive dragging 
himself along with difficulty, gloomy, prostrate, 
with a sallow face and dark lines under his eyes. 
On seeing him look so ill and so miserable I would 
try to find some way of cheering him. He, who 
could so well divine all that passed in people's 
thoughts, replied to mine before I had spoken a 

I Do not try to comfort me ; it is all of no use : 
I am a dead man/ 

This dead man would then begin in a mourn- 
ful tone to tell me all his troubles and embarrass- 
ments, but he soon began the grow animated and 
his voice became strong and vibrating ; then he 
would open his proofs and, resuming his doleful 
tone, he would say — 

I I shall sink under the weight of it all, my 

1 Bah ! ' I would reply, ' people do not sink 
when they have such works on hand as those you 
are correcting now.' 

He would raise his head, his face would 
brighten up and the dark lines would disappear 
by degrees, and he would exclaim — 

' You are right ; by Heaven, you are right. 
These books that I have here will keep me alive. 
Besides, is not Luck, that blind god, always there ? 

¥ 2 


He can help a Balzac as easily as a fool. And it 
is not even difficult to invent a stroke of luck. 
Let only one of my millionaire friends (and I 
have some), or let a banker who has more money 
than he knows what to do with, come to me and 
say, " I know all your immense talent, and I know 
all your money anxieties. You need so much to 
become free. Accept all you want without scruple. 
You will pay me back some day ; your pen can 
earn millions." That is all that need happen, my 

Accustomed to these illusions, which always 
brought back his courage and his gaiety, I listened 
without the least sign of surprise. Having once 
begun upon this golden fable, he would go on 
piling reasons upon reasons why he should expect 
it to happen. 

'These soft of people spend such sums on 
mere fancies. A good action is a fancy, like 
anything else, and it gives pleasure at once. It 
would be something for a man to be able to say, 
" I have saved a Balzac." Human nature has 
from time to time its good impulses, and there are 
people who, without being Englishmen, are capable 
of committing such eccentricities as these. 

'Imagine me,' he would say, striking his 
breast, ' a millionaire or a banker.' 



At this point he would walk up and down the 
room, throwing his arms about joyfully, saying, 
1 Ah, Balzac is free ! You will see, my dear friends 
and my dear enemies, how he will get on.' And 
then he would make a grand dream of all he 
would do for himself and for France, and how he 
would show his gratitude to his friend the banker, 

and all the credit and praise that would accrue 
to the man who had first divined the value of 
Balzac, and lent him money which opened for him 
the road to success. After sailing about for a while 
on these golden clouds he would come back to 
reality ; but the dream had done its work : it had 
distracted his thoughts from himself. He would 
correct his proofs, and afterwards read them to us 
with enthusiasm ; then would leave us, laughing at 
himself, saying, ' Adieu. I am going home to see 
if my banker has arrived and is waiting for me ; ' 
and then with his own good laugh he would add, 
1 Well, if he is not there I shall at least find work 
there, and work is the true banker who furnishes 
me with funds.' He was always ardently seeking 
to get free from debt, and his various schemes 
exhausted him quite as much as his literary 

One day he thought he had discovered a new 
substance from which paper might be made. This 


substance was both cheap and plentiful, and easy 
to be obtained. He was sanguine and delighted ; 
but disappointment followed. The experiments 
which were made did not succeed. 

A friend went to see him, expecting to find 
him much cast down ; but, on the contrary, he was 
radiant and joyful. 

1 But about the paper ? ' 
' Never mind paper. Has it never struck any 
of you that the Romans knew but little about 
the working of mines, and that they left untold 
riches in their scoriae ? Some learned men of the 
Institute whom I have consulted are of my opinion, 
and I am about to start for Sardinia/ 

I And how are you raising the money to go 
there ? ' 

I I shall walk through the country with a 
knapsack, dressed like a beggar — a terror to 
brigands and to monks. I have calculated 
everything ; six hundred francs will be quite suffi- 

The six hundred francs were raised, and he set 
off. He wrote to us from Marseilles, March 20, 

1833 :— 

' Do not, my dear mother, feel in the least 

1 anxious about me, and tell Laura not to be anxious 

1 either ; and, without disparagement for the Lau- 


1 réenne wisdom, I feel assured that I shall not 
c need any money to bring me back. I have just 
' passed five days and five nights on the imperial. 
' My hands are swollen ; I can scarcely write. 
1 To-morrow (Wednesday) I shall be at Toulon, 
1 and on Thursday I shall set off for Ajaccio/ 

His own narration of his adventures during this 
singular journey should have been heard to be 

appreciated. Once he had the good fortune to fall 
in with some genuine brigands. 

1 They are rather good devils/ said he, ' in all 
< that does not concern their special calling. They 
1 gave me information about all I wanted to know. 
1 These gentry know the exact worth of both things 
1 and people in that country. They quite under- 
1 stood that they could get nothing out of me and 
c that I had nothing worth robbing, and I really 
1 believe — H eaven forgive me if I am wrong — but 
1 I think they were more inclined to lend me money 
1 than to take it from me/ 

When my brother arrived at Bastia he was 
penniless, but he caused quite a commotion 
amongst the young men when he told his name. 
They all had read his books, and were in a state 
of enthusiasm at the sight of him, which was a 
great pleasure to him. 

' I have already made a reputation in Corsica/ 


he told us. ' What charming young men ! what a 
1 lovely country ! ' 

M. Béhic, the Inspector of Finances, received 

him into his house and made much of him. My 

brother whilst his guest won sufficient money at 

play to defray his expenses back to France ; it 

happened just at the moment when he was about 

to write to us for the necessary funds. He enjoyed 

these strokes of good luck ; they gave him faith in 

his star. But, besides walking through Sardinia 

and being tossed about on the sea, he had found 

subjects for his books — such excellent subjects — 

the last were always sure to be better than the 

first — unless one happened to agree with him, 

when he would find a score of good reasons to 

prove that the first were the best. 

He related to us all these new subjects with 
much energy — plots, details, and everything. He 
had worked them all out in his mind. 

* That will make something good/ he would 

' Do you go telling your plots and your ideas 
to everybody you meet?' I asked with some 
uneasiness, for I knew that in the good republic of 
literature people are not always scrupulous about 
their neighbours' right to their own ideas. 

1 Why should I not tell them ? ' he replied. ' The 


subject is nothing; the execution is everything. 
Let them write like Balzac. I defy them. Are 
thieves ever capable of hard work ? If they suc- 
ceed, so much the better for the public. I shall 
regret nothing they have taken ; I can find some- 
thing else, I suppose. This world is wide, and 
the brain of a man is as capacious as the world/ 

The specimens that he had brought from the 
mines were submitted to chemists for analysis. 
This was an affair that required time. Honoré 
was not, besides, at that moment in a position to go 
to demand a concession from the Government of 
Piedmont He had, in the first instance, to satisfy 
the demands of his publishers and to earn the 
money that such a journey would require. 

He lived for a whole year in the castles in the 
air which he built upon the fine fortune which was 
to be made in Sardinia ; he lived in the future and 
imagined for himself a terrestrial Eden, which he 
arranged in all things according to his own fancy. 
These dreams of his made the hearts of his friends 
as sad as his real sorrows ; for did they not both 
show in different ways the pressure of his anxieties ? 
It was only in his dreams he could escape from 
them. Once awake, he had again to take up his 

The year following his journey to Sardinia my 


brother, having achieved all the literary tasks due 
to his publishers and the different reviews, set off 
for Piedmont, to arrange for the concession of the 
mines. Frank and expansive as he always was, 
he had the year before explained the object of his 
journey to the Genoese captain of the vessel 
which carried him over to Sardinia. The delay 
in my brothers journey to Piedmont had given 
time to the Genoese to turn these confidences to 
his own profit, and when he reached the end of 
his journey he found that this was the case. 

1 The delay has been fatal to my hopes. The 
' Genoese has obtained a contract from the 
1 Sardinian Government, made out in due form. 
1 There is a million of silver to be got out of the 
1 scoriae and in the lead mines. A firm at Marseilles, 
1 to whom he applied, has assayed them. I ought not 
( to have loosened my hold on the idea last year, and 
4 to have been beforehand with them. However, I 
1 have found another idea, which is even better than 
1 the other. I will talk it over with yourself and 
1 your husband when I get back. . . . This time 
' there will be no Genoese in the matter. I am 
1 already almost consoled/ 

It was always thus ; another hope always re- 
placed the deceptions of the last. 

Honoré had a project for writing a work to be 


called ' Les Aventures d'une Idée heureuse,' which 
had been suggested by the failure of his brother- 
in-law in a great undertaking in which he had 
embarked. Balzac proposed in this book to write 
the history of an Idea which would have been 
useful to all the world, but which is crushed and 
frustrated by the many persons whose private 
interests would be injured by it, and who com- 
bine to ruin the man who has devoted himself to 
the working of it out This subject, which would 
have afforded in his hands so many observations 
and social truths, was never written. It would 
not have been the least remarkable of his works. 

On his return from Geneva in 1836 he wrote 
to me : — 

' I have good news for you, my dear little 
4 sister. The reviews are paying me better for 
' my pages. 

• Hé ! hé ! 

I Werdet tells me that the edition of "Le 
' Médecin de Campagne " has been sold out in 
1 eight days. 

' Ha ! ha ! 

I I have funds enough to meet the heavy pay- 
4 ments which fall due in November and December, 
' about which you were so anxious. 

'Ho! ho! 


4 Also I have sold a new edition of the works of 
1 that foolish fellow " Horace de Saint-Aubin," 
1 " Lord R'hoone," " Viellerglé," and other pseudo- 
' nymes. I am to have a third of the profit, with 
1 the power of denying the authorship of these 
1 works, none of which I will ever acknowledge. 
( But as these are being republished in that damned 
1 Belgium, which is as bad for authors as it is for 
1 publishers, I yield to the necessity which trans- 
' lates itself into good crown-pieces, and in this 
' way the effect of the injury is limited. 

1 Souverain is to edit my " Contes drolatiques." 

1 Ecco, sorella ! ' 

This money led a little later to the purchase of 
a small piece of ground at Ville d' Avray, where he 
built Les Jardies. But the whole thing was a 
failure. The steep incline en which the house was 
built caused the walls to sink ; the property cost 
much more than it was worth ; and at last, under 
pressure of difficulties, my brother was obliged to 
sell it, and he always considered this purchase a 

In the ' Contes drolatiques ' Honoré proposed 
to exhibit all the transformations which the French 
language has undergone since the days of Rabelais 
to the present time, giving to each story the ideas 
proper to each period. He thought that if all his 


other works should be forgotten these 'Contes 
drolatiques ' would keep his name alive. 

The studies which my brother made for this 
purpose amongst the Old French prose-writers 
made him regret the loss of certain words fallen 
obsolete and which had never been replaced. 

'What beautiful words!' he would exclaim. 
' The like of them are only to be found in the 
infancy of a language. How exactly they express 
their meaning ! and with what an artless grace ! 
In these days a whole phrase is required to 
supply their place.' 

He was angry with those who blamed him for * 
some expressions which he had created, and 
which are to be found here and there in his 

'Who, then, ought to have the privilege of 
enriching a language if it is not an author? 
Our language has accepted many words from 
those who have gone before me ; it may accept 
mine also. These parvenu words will become 
noble in time. The maker of all nobility is Time/ 

'Le Lys dans la Vallée/ the idea of which 
had been suggested in Switzerland, was published 
in ' La Revue de Paris/ During the appearance 
of the early chapters my brother was informed 
by some friends at St Petersburg that the com- 


plete work had been published there. My brother, 
thinking that this proceeding was unknown to 
the editor, and that it was contrary to his interests, 
hastened to give him the information. My brother 
found it was the editor — who no doubt believed 
he had the perfect right to act thus — who had 
arranged for this republication. My brother ex- 
claimed against this conduct ; the editor became 
angry and would listen to no proposals for an 
amicable arrangement. 

Honoré then declared he should appeal to the 
tribunals, that the rights of authors might be 
judicially decided. He would not allow the 
present occasion to pass, as it might be made a 
precedent, to the detriment of other authors as 
well as of himself. 

To undertake this action was dangerous, for, 
whether he gained or lost his cause, ' La Revue ' 
would become his mortal enemy and its columns 
would be closed against him, and there was the 
money part of the affair besides. 

These considerations did not deter my brother. 
The lawsuit began. His astonishment was great 
when his adversary appeared in court armed with 
a testimonial in his favour signed by nearly all 
the authors whose rights he was preparing to 
defend at his own risk and peril. Honoré was 


much pained by their defection, and for a long 
time afterwards he divided his confrères into two 
classes — those who had signed the testimonial and 
those who had not. The logical stupidity of 
those who had signed vexed him even after his 
first annoyance had passed away. 

His case was clear : he gained his cause and 
made numerous enemies. 

This lawsuit, and the work he published 


shortly afterwards entitled ' Les Illusions perdues/ 
where he treats of feuilletonistes ', set the whole 
press against him and roused animosities which 
even his death did not altogether set at rest H e 
cared very little for abuse, and often brought us the 
articles to read which were the most severe upon 
him ; but we felt differently and were much pained 
by these attacks. 

' Are you not very foolish/ he would say, ' to 
feel annoyed ? Critics cannot make my works 
either good or bad. Leave all to Time, the 
sovereign justice. If these people are wrong the 
public will see it some day, and the injustice will 
then tell in favour of those who have been the 
victims. Besides, these guerrilleros of art some- 
times hit their mark, and by correcting the faults 
they point out the work is made more perfect, 


and in the end I find that I ought to feel grateful 
to them/ 
f . He did not wish either to protest or to 
recriminate ; he wished to keep entire silence 
towards his detractors. His friends accused him 
of weakness and cowardice, and against his judg- 
ment forced him to show his claws and to write ' La 
Monographie de la Presse.' Wit sparkled in every 
line, but he never ceased to regret a work that he 
considered was a wrong done to his own dignity, 
whatever credit it might be to his talent. 

The consequences of this lawsuit were disas- 
trous both to his purse and to his health. The 
great journals closed their columns against him. 
In the year 1834 he went to Sache, where he re- 
mained for three months, out of the way of his 
worries, kindly cared for and finding peace and 
comfort with those steadfast friends. There he 
finished ' Le Père Goriot,' corrected the proofs of 
1 La Recherche de l'Absolu,' and began to write 
a drama — the subject ' Marie Touchet ' — which, 
however, he did not complete. 

About this time he suffered a great sorrow in 
the death of one who was very dear to him and 
whom he had deeply loved ; his letters to me on 
this subject were eloquent in the expression of 
his deep grief. 


In 1835 he was at La Boutonnière, a small estate 
near Nemours, where he had placed the personages 
of his novel of ' Ursule Mirouët/ and from thence 
he wrote to me : — 

' I have finished " La Fleur de Pois." ' (This 
was its first title ; he afterwards changed it to ' Le 
Contrat de Mariage. 1 ) f I think I have succeeded 
1 in what I wished to do. The single scene of the 
s marriage contract indicates what will be the future 
1 destiny of the married pair. 

' Here is one great scène de la vie privée 
( finished. In a future one — " L'Inventaire après 
' Décès" — the horrible will mix with the ridiculous. 
1 Brokers and appraisers ought to know something 
1 of human wickedness ; I shall make them talk 
1 amongst themselves.' 

In speaking of the labours and vexations of 
my brother I must not omit the ' Chronique de 
Paris ' and ' La Revue Parisienne/ His own 
place in literature was now conquered, and he 
hoped by editing and establishing these works to 
get out of debt as soon as possible, which was an 
ever-present desire, and it urged him to undertake 
this enterprise. A friend of my mother s lent him 
the money necessary to defray the expenses of the 
first few numbers of ' Le Chronique/ which 
preceded ' La Revue Parisienne/ His good and 

vol. 1. G 


faithful friends came to his aid — Théophile Gautier, 
Laurent, Jan, Léon Gozlan, the Marquis de Belloy, 
the Comte de Gramont. He also engaged young 
writers whose future success he could foresee. 
Amongst others by Charles de Bernard, ' La 
Femme de Quarante Ans* appeared in 'Le 
Chronique ' — a chef-d'oeuvre which afterwards had 
a great success. 

In spite of these able supporters ' Le Chronique' 
failed for want of subscribers. 

Some years later this indefatigable and ever- 
sanguine man wrote almost the whole of the three 
numbers of ' La Revue Parisienne/ He was then 
living at Ville d'Avray. In this Review he pub- 
lished articles on Frederick Stendhal, Walter 
Scott, and Cooper, which, I have been told, are 
models of literary criticism. 

Whilst he resided at Ville d* Avray he rented a 
lodging in the house of Buisson, a tailor, at the 
corner of the Boulevard and of the Rue Richelieu. 
He always slept there when he spent an evening in 
Paris. After he had sold Les Jardies he went to 
live in the Rue Basse, No. 19, at Passy, where he 
remained for several years, and which he only left 
to install himself in his own house of Beaujon, 
from which he never removed. 

The attacks of the critics redoubled in their 


animosity. They accused him of immorality, which 
was the surest way to injure him and to alienate 
the public from him. His works were prohibited 
in Spain, in Italy, especially in Rome. It is easy 
to define what is immoral in actions, but more 
difficult when it comes to works of art. 

These accusations gave deep pain to my 
brother, and at times caused him great discourage- 

4 People obstinately refuse to look upon my 
work as a whole, in order to tear it to pieces in 
detail,' he would say. ' My critics in their false 
modesty drop their eyes before certain characters 
in " La Comédie humaine," who are unfortunately 
just as true to life as the others, and who spring 
up like an undergrowth which has been cut down 
in the manners of the present time. There are 
vices in our own days, as in all others. Do they 
expect that, in the name of innocence, I should 
clothe in virgin white (votiasse au blanc) the two 
or three thousand personages who figure in " La 
Comédie humaine " ? I would like to see what 
they would make of these people. I have not 
invented Marneffe male and female, nor the 
Hulots, nor the Philippe Bridaus, who brush against 
everybody in the crowd of our old civilisation. 
I write for men, not for young girls. Let anyone 

G 2 


point to a single page in which religion and family 
life are attacked.' 

This injustice went to my brothers heart. ' Of 
how many torments and vexations success is made 
up ! ' he would exclaim, resting his head between 
his hands. ' But, after all, what is the use of 
complaining ? ' 

My brother has said somewhere, ' La mort est 
le sacre du génie/ 

The fragments of the letters which I have 
given will show the warmth of his heart and the 
burning soul within, which no disappointment nor 

deception could render cold. To read through 


his correspondence makes ones head turn round. 
What labours does it not reveal ? What projects, 
what hopes, are to be seen succeeding each other ; 
what activity of mind, and what noble courage, 
rising afresh after each defeat. What a richly 
endowed organisation ! 

If the sorrows of the heart, which he had as 
well as others, or fatigue, made him sometimes 
feel discouragement, with what a firm will he 
always quelled it, his powerful energy asserting 
itself afresh, and, along with that, the power 
which never failed him of doing work. 

It must be remembered that the Balzac who 
was to be seen in society was not the Balzac who 


opened his heart so frankly to us in his conversa- 
tions and in his letters. In the world he appeared 
always amiable and brilliant. He was able to keep 
all his anxieties so completely in abeyance that he 
seemed as happy as the happiest He was quite 
aware of his own genius, and found no difficulty 
in taking the lead of everyone present. 

He proudly concealed his poverty and his 
difficulties, because he did not choose to be pitied ; 
but if he had felt more free to act as he pleased, 
more independent of his embarrassments, he would 
have owned proudly that he was poor. 

It was through struggles and misfortunes that 
my brother gained his knowledge of the world 
and of men. 

Those who have known Balzac through the 
whole of his life are well aware that this man, 
so clear-sighted, so lucid in his judgment, was the 
most simple and confiding of human beings, almost 
childlike in his amusements, and of a temper and 
disposition so sweet even in the days when he was 
most depressed and discouraged that he made 
life happy to those who lived most intimately and 
closely with him. 

This man, who wrote ' Le Curé de Village/ ' Les 
Parents pauvres/ ' Les Paysans,' in his hours of 
relaxation, was like a schoolboy in the holidays. 


He sowed convolvulus all the length of his gar- 
den wall in the Rue Basse at Passy, watched the 
flowers open in the morning, admired their colours, 
and delighted in the hues of certain insects ; would 
walk across the Bois de Boulogne to Suresnes, 
where we were then staying for a short time, to 
take a hand at boston, showing himself more of a 
child than any of his nieces. He would laugh 
heartily at calembours, and envied those who had 
the gift of making them. Sometimes he would try 
to make one himself, but did not succeed. ' No/ he 
would say regretfully, 'no ; that is not a calembour' 
He was always ready to repeat the only two he. 
had ever made in his life. ' I never intended them/ 
he would say with humility ; c I made them without 
knowing.' We even suspected he had improved 
upon them in after moments. 

Inventing proverbes, a game then in vogue, 
amused him greatly, and he was more successful 
with them than with calembours. He composed 
some for the utterance of his Mistigris in 'Un 
Début dans la Vie' and for Madame Crémière 
in ' Ursule Mirouët/ c La femme doit être la che- 
nille ouvrière de la maison ' gave him as much 
delight as if it had been one of his profoundest 
thoughts. ' None of you could have made that/ 
said he. 


When we had lotteries he invented mottoes 
under which the lots were hidden, and was en- 
chanted when he brought us some good ones. 
' An author is of use sometimes/ he would say quite 

He had a singular theory about names. He 
used to say that names which were invented never 
imparted life to imaginary characters, whilst those 
names which had belonged to real people en- 
dowed the personages of a book with vitality. 

All the names in * La Comédie humaine ' were 
found as he was taking his walks up and down. He 
would come home delighted whenever he had met 
with one that was suitable. ' " Matifat," " Cardot," 
what delectable names ! ' he said to me. ' I found 
" Matifat " in the Rue de la Perle in the Marais. I see 
what my Matifat will be like already. He will have 
a pale, cat-shaped face, not much inclined to be 
stout ; for Matifat can have nothing great about 
him, as you may imagine.' 

' And Cardot, what of him ? ' 

1 He will be quite of another type — a little man as 
dry as a bit of gravel, lively and enjoying himself.' 

I can well understand his delight when he dis- 
covered the name of M areas. 

Knowing, as we did, the fidelity to life of certain 
personages in ' La Comédie humaine ' — for if my 


brother borrowed the names of living people he 
also did the same by their characters — we were 
sometimes terrified lest these resemblances should 
be discovered, and so raise further hatred against 

' Simpletons that you are, all of you ! ' he would 
say to us, laughing and shrugging his strong 
shoulders, which had the weight of a world upon 
them. ' Do you imagine that anyone knows 
what he really is ? Are there such things as mirrors 
that can reflect the moral likeness ? If some 
Van Dyck like myself were to paint my portrait, 
I should in all likelihood look at myself as if it 
were some stranger/ 

He would go and audaciously read his types 
of character to the very persons who had stood 
for the originals. They never failed to justify 
this idea, for whilst we would listen with trem- 
bling anxiety, thinking it impossible that they 
should not recognise themselves, they would say, 
1 How true to the life are those characters ! You 
must have known Mr. So-and-so or So-and-so. 
It is to the life — as true as if they had been 
sitting for their portrait.' 

But, in addition to those who could not recog- 
nise themselves, there were others who insisted 
that other personages in f La Comédie humaine ' 


had been intended for them. Many were the 
women who flattered themselves that they had 
inspired the touching character of Henriette. 

My brother never undeceived any of these 
dear mistaken ones, but left them in the pleasant 
delusion which made them his ardent defenders. 
Let his silence on these things be forgiven him. 
He had great need of devoted admirers. 

No author ever thought out his plans more 
carefully, or matured them longer in his mind, than 
Balzac before he committed them to paper. At 
the time of his death he carried in his mind more 
than one book completely thought out, but which 
he was reserving for the maturity of his genius 
for execution, recoiling with awe from the vast 
horizons which were opening before him. 

' I have not yet arrived at the perfection which 
is necessary before I dare undertake these great 
subjects/ was what he was always saying. 

The • Essai sur les Forces humaines/ ' La Patho- 
logie de la Vie sociale/ ' L'Histoire des Corps 
enseignants/ ' La Monographie de la Vertu/ such 
were the titles of some of these books, the pages 

of which will unfortunately remain for ever un- 

Those who have studied the works of Balzac 

will not be likely to accuse him, as was formerly 


the case, of going haphazard towards an unfore- 
seen dénouement He might in the course of work- 
ing out a story change something in the details, 
but never in the plan which he had previously 
decided upon in his own mind. 

He held firmly in the grasp of careful work- 
manship the gift of enormous fertility and facility 
with which nature had endowed him. ' One should 

always be careful and mistrust these qualities,' he 
used to say ; ' they often lead to a sterile abun- 
dance. Boileau was right ; one must always curb 
one's style, which alone can give permanence to 

any work of art.' 

On this account his great artist soul was 

pained to behold the immense talents squandered 
and wasted by some of his contemporary authors, 
who he said abandoned themselves to these 
dangerous gifts. 

The love which he had for perfection, and 
his profound reverence for his own genius, and 
also his respect for the public, caused him often 
to elaborate his style too much. Except a few 
works which were written under a happy inspira- 
tion, and which he scarcely retouched (such as ' La 
Messe de l'Athée,' ' La Grenadière,' ' Le Message,' 
1 La Femme abandonnée,' &c), it was only after 
having successively corrected eleven or twelve 


proofs of the same sheet that he gave the per- 
mission to be printed off, so ardently longed 
for by the poor printers, who were so wearied out 
with these corrections that they could none of 
them print more than one page at a time of 

His habit of insisting upon so many successive 
proofs of the same sheet diminished greatly the 
sums he received for his works, for no publisher 
could stand the expense. One of the accusations 
against him was that it was to make more money, 
and to save himself trouble, that he wrote his works 
as they passed through the press ; but it was not 
accusations like these which troubled my brother. 
What annoyed him the most was to hear those 
who pretended to praise his works without in 
the least understanding them. 

Much has been said, and not without truth, of 
his excessive amour-propre ; but it was all so 
frank, and so well justified moreover, that it was 
far preferable to the false humility which often 
covers a good deal of pride. 

A high conviction of his own powers may be 
well forgiven in a man who wrote such works as 
1 Le Médecin de Campagne/ € La Recherche de 
l'Absolu/ 'Le Curé de Village/ and so many 
other first-class works, especially when the con- 


viction of his own genius and his own faith in 
himself could alone supply the patience and the 
strength needed for such creations. 

Of course it would have been better for him 
if he could have repressed this naif enthusiasm 
about himself, but it would have been requiring 
the impossible from a man at once so frank and so 
susceptible to every impression. 

It may be seen from his letters how great mis- 
givings followed close upon his great satisfaction 
with his own work, and they were to the full as 
genuine as his displays of amour-propre. But it 
must not be thought that this self-love was so deaf 
that it would not listen to the truth. If any 
friends said to him, l It seems to us that such and 
such a thing is bad/ he would first remonstrate, 
justify himself, and, it might be, abuse them, and 
insist that the passage they complained of was 
precisely the best piece in the book ; but if, in 
spite of his anger and self-assertion, they kept 
firmly to their opinion, this firmness took effect. 
None of the observations were lost upon him. 
He reflected upon them during the solitary hours 
when he worked at night, and would come back 
and shake hands with the friends who had 
ventured to tell him the truth. 

He would say frankly, 'You are right,' or, 


' You are wrong/ being equally grateful in either 
case, for he loved his friends better thafi his own 
self-esteem. He was always the first to laugh at 
his own good opinion of himself, and he let others 
laugh with him. 

He knew the praise that was worth having, 
and he never was the dupe of the common- 
place expressions of admiration which were con- 
stantly addressed to him. He was simple- 
minded and confiding, but it was not in him to 
be a fool. 

He admired talent wherever he found it, 
whether amongst friends or enemies, and took the 
part of both whenever their intellect was attacked 
or calumniated by vulgar stupidity. 

How often has he assisted, unknown to them- 
selves, young authors whose first works he has 
chanced to read, by recommending them to the 
editors of reviews and journals. 

' That man has promise in him/ hé would 
say. Such a judgment coming from him had 

He could sum up the situation or the prospects 
of a man in a picturesque or incisive phrase. It 
was impossible for anyone to tell a story better, to 
talk better, or to read aloud better than he did. It 
was, therefore, impossible to judge of the weak 


points of any of his books by listening to his own 
reading of them. He could have made one admire 
the poetry of a Trissotin. 

The selfishness with which he has been re- 
proached was the consequence of his unfortunate 
situation and his enormous labours. Had he been 
more free, he would have been helpful and 
devoted. As it was we can appeal to the life- 
long friendships which he preserved to the day of 
his death, and to the young rising literary men 
to whom he often gave his counsels — and his time, 
his only fortune. 

My brother possessed the art of making him- 
self so greatly beloved that, once in his pre- 
sence, people forgot the complaints, well- or ill- 
founded, they might have against him, and they 
could only recollect the affection they felt for 

All the servants who ever lived with him have 
never forgotten him, though he could not do all he 
would have wished for them ; all of them loved 
him with devotion, and yet it was neither idleness 
nor abundance that they had with him. 

4 1 know not what there is about him/ said 
they, 'but one would serve him for nothing. 
When he wants you to do anything one feels 
neither fatigue nor want of sleep ; and whether he 


scolds you or rewards you, one is equally satisfied 
with him.' 

As to his friendships, he preserved them all 
and betrayed none. Living on terms of intimacy 
with the most remarkable men of his time, all of 
them felt honoured by his affection and paid it 
back by their own. Often he would quit his 
work to visit a sick friend. He was so much 
engrossed when with those he loved that he 
would come in to see them intending to stay only 
a moment and he would remain with them for 
hours ; then, starting up with sudden remorse, he 
would admonish himself by saying — 

1 Monster ! wretched creature ! you ought to 
have been writing copy for the printers all this 
time instead of staying to chatter ! ' 

Then he would waste more time by calculating 
how much these hours of relaxation had cost him — 
a fabulous calculation, which, starting from reason- 
able figures, mounted up to enormous sums» 
because ' one must always take new editions into 
account/ he would say. 

To sum up all in one word, this great soul had 
all the charms and graces that goodness can 
bestow. His childlike gaiety and lighthearted- 
ness afforded him that serenity which was essential 
to enable him to work. 


George Sand, who knew him well, and whom 
he always called ' son frère George/ has only been 
mistaken on one point, and that is in the extreme 
sagesse with which she credits him. It was 
praise he did not deserve. After his work, which 
took precedence of everything else, my brother 
loved and enjoyed all the pleasures of life. I 
think that he possibly might have been a great 
coxcomb if he had not been the most reticent and 
discreet of men. He, who was so open and com- 
municative in all that concerned himself, never was 
guilty of the slightest indiscretion as regarded his 
relations with others ; he faithfully guarded their 
secrets if he did not know how to keep his own. 

My brother used to say gaily, when speaking 
of the shortness of his stature (he was only five 
feet high), that great men had almost always been 
little ones. ' The head ought always to be near 
the heart/ he would add, • to enable those two 
powers which govern the human frame to work 

When at home he always wore an ample white 
cashmere dressing-gown, lined with white silk, 
cut like the frock of a monk and tied round his 
waist by a girdle of white silk cord. His head 
was covered with a black velvet skull-cap, which 
he first adopted in his garret and retained ever 


afterwards. It was my mother who always made 
these caps for him. 

According to the time of day when he went 
abroad, his attire was either excessively slovenly 
or extremely neat If anyone had met him in 
the morning, worn out by twelve hours' work, on 
his road to the printing office — an old battered hat 
pulled over his eyes, his beautiful hands hidden in 
large coarse gloves, his feet thrust into half-boots, 
large loose full trousers in plaits over his feet — 
he might have been confounded with the passers- 
by ; but if he once lifted his hat and exposed 
his forehead, if he looked at you, or if he spoke to 
you, the dullest and commonest man could never 
have forgotten him. His intellect, kept so con- 
stantly on the stretch, had still further developed 
the naturally large forehead which gathered so 
much light Intellect showed itself in the first 
words he uttered, and even in his gestures. A 
painter would have studied that mobile face, over 
which all thoughts and feelings were constantly 
passing, and on which all sentiments were ex- 
pressed — joy, sorrow, energy, depression, irony, 
hopes, disappointments. All the moods of his 
soul were reflected there. 

He triumphed over the vulgarity of being 
vol. i. H 


stout by his manners and gestures, which were 
marked by a native grace and distinction. 

His hair, the arrangement of which he often 
varied, was always picturesque, however it might 
be worn. 

The bust of my brother at the age of forty- 
four, executed by David, will convey his likeness to 
posterity. It faithfully conveys his fine forehead 
and his magnificent hair, indicating that his bodily 
force was equal to the strength of his intellect The 
marvellous setting of his eyes ; the fine lines of 
that square-cut nose, of that mouth so exquisitely 
curved, where goodnature was allied with wit; 
that chin which completed the pure oval of his 
face before his tendency to corpulence had marred 
its regularity — all are there. But unhappily marble 
has not been able to express the fire and intellect 
of those burning eyes — brown specked with gold, 
like those of a lynx. Those eyes interrogated 
and replied without the help of words ; they 
seemed to see ideas and feelings ; they threw out 
jets of fire that seemed to come from within, and 
to give out light instead of receiving it. 

Balzac's friends will recognise the truth of 
these lines ; those who never saw him may tax 
me with exaggeration. 

My brother competed for the prix Montyon 


with his * Médecin de Campagne/ and did not 
obtain it 

He presented himself twice at the Académie, 
and was not received. 

I will say a few words about ( Vautrin/ the 
first play of my brother's that was ever acted. It 
was represented on March 14, 1840, at the Porte 
Saint- Martin. The actor who had the part of 
Vautrin took the notion — unknown both to the 
manager and to my brother — of copying a very 
exalted personage in the scene where Vautrin 
appears as a Mexican general. Honoré felt at 
once that the play would be forbidden. 

I well knew the circumstances that rendered 
success imperative for my brother, and being 
anxious about the effect that this overthrow of his 
hopes might have upon him, I hastened the next 
morning to the Rue Richelieu, to the lodging my 
brother occupied. I found him in a high fever, 
and took him home to be nursed. 

Two hours after his arrival at our house 
Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and others of 
his confrères came to offer him their services. 

M. also came, and said to my brother 

that he would secure him a handsome indemnity 
if he would consent to withdraw ' Vautrin ' from 
representation, and so spare the authorities an 

h 2 


initiative which would be very unpleasant to 

1 Sir/ replied my brother, * the interdiction of 
4 Vautrin " will be very prejudicial to my interests, 
but I will not accept money as payment for an 
injustice ; I will not withdraw my play ; let them 
interdict it/ 

1 Vautrin ' was withdrawn after three represen- 

The time will perhaps come when the narra- 
tive can be given of the closing years of my 
brother's life ; the details will bfc supported by 
letters, which will show the change that an expe- 
rience he had so dearly purchased had brought to 
his vast intellect. 

The Balzac of that period had become cured 
of his expansiveness, and was prudent, grave 
almost to seriousness, though without any touch 
of misanthropy. 

I will speak of the latter days of his life, 
broken down in the prime of his age, and of his 
genius before he had accomplished his work, just 
when he was hoping for happiness, and when he 
was at least going to enjoy the tranquillity he had 
so long desired ; they were things that moved the 
hearts of both friends and enemies. 

Immense successes and devoted attachments 

• * 


made up. the joys of his life ; he had also to endure 
deep .sociews. Nothing, can be small or circum- 
scmbêAi&'iatiieart 'that God has endued with the 
exquisite sensibilities of an exalted' intellect 

Who is there who will venture to pity him or 
to envy him ? 

I have revealed his character ; I have shown 
what he was in his private life, his family affections, 
his friendships ; I have told his misfortunes, 
valiandy struggled with and courageously endured. 
I think my task is fulfilled in making the world 
esteem and love the man whom it admires as 
an author. I have confined myself to doing this, 
and so have discharged my obligations towards 
him and towards the world. 

To great writers alone belongs the right of 
judging what he was as an author. 

Laura Surville, née Balzac. 

A few details upon the origin of some of Bal- 
zac^ works will not be without interest 

The subject of ' L'Auberge Rouge ' is perfectly 
true, whatever may have been said to the contrary. 
It was related to Balzac by an old army surgeon, 


a friend of the man who was unjustly condemned. 
Balzac added nothing except the dénouement. 

The romance of 'Quentin Durward,' the 
historical portions of which have been so greatly 
admired, roused Balzac's indignation. He as- 
serted that Sir Walter Scott had strangely mis- 
represented Louis XL, a king to whom he 
declared justice had never been done. This 
feeling induced him to compose ' Maître Cor- 
nélius/ a work where Louis XL appears on the 

' Les Deux Proscrits ' was written after a 
deep and prolonged study of Dante, and intended 
as an act of homage to the poet 

' Un Episode sous la Terreur' was related to 
Balzac by the sombre hero of this story. 

Balzac greatly desired to see Samson, the 
chief executioner of Paris — 'l'exécuteur des 
hautes œuvres.' He wished to know what were 
the thoughts of this man, whose whole soul must 
have been filled with the recollections of such 
terrible tragedies ; he desired to learn how his 
terrible calling and his miserable mode of life 
affected him. It was exactly the kind of study to 
attract Balzac. 

M. Appert, the Inspector-General of Prisons, 
with whom Balzac was intimate, contrived an in- 

i • •• •• 


terview. Calling one day by appointment on M. 
Appert, Balzac met a stranger — a man very pale, 
with a serious and noble countenance. His 
manners, his language, his evident cultivation and 
intelligence, induced Balzac to take him for some 
learned man who had come there from the same 
interest and curiosity which had brought him. 
The stranger was Samson. 

Balzac, warned by M. Appert, repressed all 
signs of surprise or repulsion, and turned the 
conversation upon the subjects which interested 
him. He inspired Samson with so much confi- 
dence that, throwing off all reserve, he ended by 
describing all the sufferings of his life. The 
death of Louis XVI. had left him with the terrors 
and the remorse of a criminal. (Samson was a 
Royalist) The morning after the execution he 
caused une messe expiatoire to be said for the King. 
It was probably the only one celebrated in Paris 
on that day. 

The article entitled ' Passion dans le 
Désert ' was founded on a conversation Balzac had 
with Martin, the celebrated tamer of wild beasts, 
after one of his performances. 

'Séraphita,' that strange work which seems 
like a translation from the German, was inspired 
by a female friend 


Note. — I find in one of his letters this judgment upon 
George Sand : — 

' She has none of the littleness of soul nor any of the base 
jealousies which obscure the brightness of so much contem- 
porary talent. Dumas resembles her in this respect George 
Sand is a very noble friend, and I would consult her with full 
confidence in my moments of doubt on the logical course to 
pursue in such or such a situation ; but I think she lacks the 
instinct of criticism : she allows herself to be too easily per- 
suaded ; she does not hold with sufficient tenacity to her own 
judgment ; she does not understand the art of refuting the 
arguments of her adversary nor of justifying herself/ 


To Mdlle. Laure de Balzac? at Villeparisis 

{Seine-et-Marne) . 


9 Rue Lesdiguières, 9 Paris : April 12, 18 19. 

You insist, my dear sister, upon having all the 
details of my removal hither, and of my mode of 
living in this place. I obey. 

I have already told mamma all about my 
purchases ; but you will tremble when I tell you 
that I have done something more than make a 
purchase : / have hired a servant. 

1 A servant ! my dear brother, how can you 
think of such a thing ? ' 

Yes, I have hired a servant, and he has a 
name quite as strange as the servant of Dr. 
Nacquart, 8 whom he calls ' Tranquille ; ' mine is 
called ' Moi-même ' — a bad bargain truly. 

1 Les Proscrits and Un Début dans la Vie are dedicated to his 

3 9 Rue Lesdiguières, near the Arsenal. 

8 Le Lys dans la Vallée is dedicated to Dr. Nacquart 


Moi-même is idle, thoughtless, and clumsy. 
His master is hungry or thirsty, and often he has 
not even bread or water to offer him ; he has not 
even a notion of how to keep out the wind which 
whistles through the door and the window like 
Tulou on his flute — but not so sweetly. 

As soon as I awake I ring for Moi-même, 
and he makes my bed and tries to sweep out the 
room, but he is not very skilful in the business. 

4 Moi-même ! ' 

' What did you say, sir ? ' 

' Look at that cobweb, where the big fly is 
making a noise that deafens me — those flocks 
underneath the bed — that dust on the windows, 
which gets into my eyes and blinds me.' 

1 But, sir, I see nothing.' 

4 There ! Hold your tongue and do not 
argue ! ' and he is silent. 

He brushes my clothes ; he sweeps whilst he 
sings, and sings whilst he sweeps ; he laughs 
when he talks, and talks when he laughs. He is 
not a bad fellow, after all. He has put my 
linen in order in the cupboard beside the chim- 
ney-piece, after carefully papering it with white 
paper. With six-pennyworth of blue paper, and 
some bordering which was given to him, he has 
contrived to make me a screen. He has painted 


the room white, from the bookcase to the chim- 

When he is tired of his work — which he is 
not at present — I shall send him to Villeparisis l 
to fetch some fruit, or, better still, to Alby, 2 to 
enquire after my cousin. 

I have said enough about the servant ; now 
let us talk about the master, who is myself. 

I have done my best, dear sister, to gild the 
cage of the little grey bird ; but a few flowers 
must be added, and I find those when I am 
writing to you. 

' Is not my brother a flatterer ? ' 

Do you not see that I am treating you to a 
few spare compliments, the rest of which I have 
paid to the young lady on the second floor ? But, 
alas ! the current of my love has been much dis- 
turbed since I made the discovery that she is in 
love with a servant. Yes, Moi-même makes soft 
speeches to her ! 

Now I am going to chatter. Having concluded 
the official gazette, here follows the feuilleton. 

The father and mother on the second floor 

1 The village to which the Balzac family had retired. 

2 When young Honoré first went to Paris to try his fortune in 
literature, it was agreed by his parents that it should be said to the 
friends of the family that he was on a visit to a cousin at Alby, so 
that in case of failure it might be a secret. 


seem to be excellent people, but I cannot quite 
make out what they are. The father is paralysed 
down the whole of the left side. 

I have also an excellent man for my landlord. 
His wife is in business — somewhat vulgar, in 
spite of her showy good looks. They have two 
children — the eldest a son, a great lazy fellow, 
and a daughter, married to a china dealer in 
the Rue du Petit- Lion, where we bought, the 
soup tureen for mamma's small dinner service. 

As to the bachelor on the third floor, he is 
an idler, a do-nothing. 

Can you believe that I have been here an 
entire week — thinking a little, setting things to 
rights a little, eating a bit, walking a little, yet 
doi ng nothing worth speaking about ? ' Coqsigrue ' x 
is at the present moment beyond my powers. It 
must be ruminated and well considered before it 
is written. I am studying in order to form my 
taste : I should be tempted to fancy sometimes 
that I had lost my head, had I not the luck to 
hold that respectable chef fast in my hands. 

News ! something that must seem to you 
quite extraordinary. I have not once opened my 

What a baby I am ! But you see I am not 

1 A projected novel, never written. 


writing a set letter; I am letting my thoughts 
go free, and they run wild. 

Don't be surprised that I am writing to you 
on half a sheet of papier with a bad pen, and that 
I am sending you à budget of nonsense. I must 
retrieve my expenses, and make economies in 
everything, even in my handwriting, and even in 
my intellect, as you can see. 

I am sorry I have not time to write to Lau- 
rentia, 1 whom I love — shall I say it ? — as much 
as yourself. Well, yes — as much as yourself. 
Good-bye, dear, good sister. I embrace you with 
all my heart, and Laurentia likewise. 

To M. Théodore Dablin^ Merchant, Parts. 

Pans : September 1819. 

_ * ** 

Perfidious Daddy, — It is sixteen long days 
since I saw you last. This is very fcad of you — 


you, who are my only comfort. It is a very black 
trait of character. But I bear no malice. I shall 
expect you on Sunday morning. Mind that you 

1 Balzac's second sister. 

1 M. Dablin was a rich dealer in hardware living in the Rue Saint- 
Martin, with artistic tastes and a generous heart, who often assisted 
Balzac with his counsel and purse. The Chouans is dedicated to him. 
When he retired from business M. Dablin formed a collection of 
objects of art, which were much esteemed by amateurs, and when 
he died he bequeathed the most valuable of his specimens to the 
Museum of the Louvre. 


are well up in the details of the exhibition of pic- 
tures : I want to ask you about it 

You are under the impression that I live a 
long way off. This is a philosophical error. Read 
Newton and you will find that I am within a 
stone's throw. 

And our Latin, traitor! I am waiting for 
you to set me to work at it once more. 

Adieu ! 

To M. Théodore Dablin y Paris. 

Paris : September 1819. 

Miserable little Father, — I did not see you 
yesterday. Must I treat you like Cerberus in 
Hades, to whom was thrown a little honey-cake ? 
Must I write to you each time I want to see you ? 

I feel that, the profit being all on my side, I 
seem to be an interested person, although I am 
imbued with the idea that in friendship one 
ought to be under as little constraint as possible, 
so as not to make one's friendship a yoke, and 
thus create a wish to shake it off. It is sufficient 
for me to know that I am beloved in the Rue 
Saint-Martin ; I ask no more. The way to de- 
light me would be to bring the list of the newly- 
elected. I know about Grégoire, 1 but the rest ? 

1 The Abbé Grégoire. 


Give me the list of each department, with a little 
indication of the opinions which prevail in each. 
I write no more, in order to have all the more to 
say to you. 

Adieu, Pylades Dablin. 

You would be very good if you came on 
Tuesday ; or if you cannot come before Sunday, 
send me the list by Mother Comin, who will 
bring it to me. 

i To Mdlle. Laure de Balzac, Villeparisis. 

Paris : 1819. 

My very dear and honoured Sister, — Yesterday 
(Sunday) I dined with my landlord ; I afterwards 
played at little innocent games. I assure you they 
were very innocent, considering the foolish stupi- 
dity of nearly all the members of the honourable 
company. The little loves are doing well. 
1 Zaïre ' is beginning to write legibly, but I 
shall never be able to make anything of her in 

Saturday, 30. — As it is one o'clock in the 
morning, Mother Antimèche is to come and take 
my prose this morning, and I am re-Laurising 

I have received your letter in which you 
say, ' Write, write, write.' You will see by the 


above that I was thinking about the Villeparisi- 

Now tell me whereabouts you are reading in 
Montesquieu, as you cite passages from him 
which I do not know. Happy the brothers 
whose sisters are Lauras ! You send me news, 
as if I did not read the newspapers, and as if I 
really was at Alby ; and you have actually wasted 
half a sheet of your letter in writing to me what 
mamma has already told me, what I have read, 
what I know. Let us talk of something else. 

I have finally decided upon Cromwell, and I 
have chosen it because it is the finest subject in 
modern history. 

Since I began to consider deeply about this 
matter I have flung myself into it both body and 
soul. Ideas crowd upon me and overwhelm me, 
but I am constandy hampered by my want of 
facility in writing verse. I shall have eaten all 
my finger-nails more than once before my first 
monument will have been achieved. If you 
only knew the difficulties of works like these ! 

The great Racine himself took two years to 
polish ' Phèdre/ that despair of poets. Two 
years ! — two years ! Do you realise all that lies 
in those words — two years ? 

But whilst I am consuming myself day and 


night, how delightful it is to associate those who 
are dear to me with my labours ! Ah, my sister, 
if Heaven has endowed me with any talent, my 
greatest joy will be to see my glory reflected 
upon all of you ! What happiness to conquer obli- 
vion, and to render the name of Balzac once more 
illustrious! At these thoughts my blood runs 
high. When a fine idea strikes me I seem to 
hear your voice saying to me, ' Courage ! go on ! ' 

I have entirely abandoned my comic opera ; PN^^amU, 

should not have been able in my garret to find a 
composer. I ought not either to write for the taste 
of the moment, but follow the example of Racine 
and Corneille, and work, as they have done, for 
posterity ! . . . 

The second act was feeble, and the first ac£} 
would have been too brilliant for music ; / afld7wEen 
reflecting for reflection's sake, I prefer to reflect 
upon ' Cromwell/ 

But usually two thousand lines go to the 
making of a tragedy ; so think of the reflections ! 
Pity me. What do I say ? No, do not pity me, 
for I am happy ; envy me rather, and think of me 

I promise you that when my first act is nearly 
finished, and only the last finishing touch is needed, 
I will send it to you. But motus ! — no jesting on 

vol. 1. I 


such a topic. I have been very much perplexed ; 
and the reason is this (you are competent to judge 
of it), Strafford brings the Queen of England to 

But she is obliged to take off her royal 
clothes, in order to travel through the country, to 
reach London, and to be allowed to enter the 
palace. What ought to be her first impulse in 
this condition ? 

After much hesitation, I have given preference 
to humiliated pride. Only a woman can tell me 
if I am right Ah, my dear sister, what torments 
are caused by the love of glory ! 

Hurrah for the épiciers! All day long they 
are selling something, and at night they count up 
their gains ; from time to time they amuse them- 
selves at some dreadful melodrama, and thus they 
are happy. Yes ; but they pass their time amongst 
cheese and soap. Rather, by far, hurrah for men 
of letters ! . . . Yes ; but they are all poor as rats 
as regards money, and only rich in their contempt 
for others. Bah ! let us leave them both alone, 
and hurrah for everybody ! 

You must know that I refresh myself, after 
my labours, by scratching in a little romance after 
the antique. 1 I do it word by word, thought by 

1 This romance never saw the light 

» è ■ 


thought, or, rather, ab hoc and ab hoc. I rarely 
leave the house ; but when I take a ramble it shall 
be a cheerful stroll in Père la Chaise. I am wait- 
ing for the winter in order to work more closely. 

The following is the present state of affairs, 
for which you were asking : — 

Fine Arts. 

I have no music ! Naughty girl, you talk to 
me about pictures. How do you think I can go 
to the Musée while I am at Alby ? 

I waited yesterday for that traitor Dablin, to 
make him give me an account of the pictures now 
on view. I had set his chair ready .... which 
brought me ill-luck, for he did not come. 

Out of Doors. 

I have been met by M. de V and M. 

F , from Villeparisis. If they have recog- 
nised me, say it was not me. 

Though I would rather not be like anybody 


I have eaten two melons. They must be paid 
for by living on nuts and dry bread. 

1 2 



If some day you would only give me a rendez- 
vous on the banks of the Canal de TOurcq, near 
such or such a bridge ! It would only be three 
hours' walking to find you, and three hours to 
return to my garret ; then the ' Albigeois ' would 
have seen all that he has dearest in the world ! 
Think about it. 

Meanwhile if you are able to find ideas for the 
situations in 'Cromwell,' write them to me. 
Now what troubles me the most is the first 
scene between the King and the Queen. Such a 
melancholy, tender, and touching tone should pre- 
dominate, such pure and fresh thoughts, that I am 
in despair. It ought to be grand all through, like 
the ' Atala ' of Girodet in painting. If you ha^ve 
an Ossianic fibre, send me some colours, dear, 
little, good, amiable, sweet sister, whom I love so 

You must know that I have been writing to 
you whilst eating my dinner. After my letter 
was finished, I found around me about thirty 
mouthfuls begun. I am going to finish them. 

Adieu. I embrace you, and I am your loup- 
garou of a brother. 



To M. Théodore Dublin. 

Paris : September 18 19. 

I have been meditating an oration on you in 
the style of Cicero against Catiline. What ! one 
whole month without coming to lesdiguièrùer, 
while I wither to a mummy, bake to a cinder, 
by not seeing you ! But do not believe, O 
wicked man, that it is on your own account. 
No ; patriotic devotion takes the upper hand. 
I am an abridgement of Brutus. What of the 
Deputies ? The lists of the newly elected ? My 
dreams are of Dablin and Deputies. 

In other respects I am not angry at the 
sparseness of your visits ; it shows that you are fully 
occupied. But you must know that for the last 
week I have been as if at the bottom of Hades : 
I have seen nothing, heard nothing ; no one has 
written to me. I have not even had a glimpse of 
Mother Comin. In short, I have been entirely 
alone with my poor wits, that have gone a wool- 

1 Cromwell ' will blow the top of my head off. 

I am so wearied out with English regicides 
that I intend to rest, my brain for a fortnight, to 
take nothing but my ease, in order that my head 
may be refreshed by October, the date I have 


fixed for taking a plunge into the gulf of the tra- 
gedy, whence I shall not emerge until I brandish 
the first act in my hand. ... I write on gilt- 
-edged paper, as if you were my mistress. It is 
to induce you to come and see me. I beseech 
you, give Mother Comin a list of the new Deputies, 
with their politics. Adieu, Pylades. 

To Mdlle. Laure de Balzac, Villeparisis. 

w Paris : October 1819. 

My very dear and honoured Sister, — I seize the 
godardienne 1 opportunity to send you tidings of 
your scapegrace of a brother. ... A fortnight 
has elapsed during which I have done nothing ; 
I have let my field lie fallow. By way of com- 
pensation I have now sat up three nights at 
work again. 

That abominable daddy has not come yet; 
the chair was set for him in vain ; but I forgive 
him. I am not a Christian for the sake of what 
I may get {pour des primes). Are you still 
working at your piano ? I must tell you that we 
are making economies in order to have one here. 
When my mother and you come to see me you 
will find one installed, and ' Rousseau's Dream ' 2 

1 Godard was the name of a farmer who, when he brought his 
grain to Paris, did commissions for the Balzac family. 

8 A composition by Cramer, very much in vogue at that time. 


shall be heard in my garret, where dreams are 
much needed. 

Laura, my dear sister, how is it that you 
have not yet got hold of papas Tacitus ? Re- 
member that I am relying upon you, who are as 
cunning as a gipsy, to get hold of it for the benefit 
of your brother. Of course* if it were ever used I 
would not ask for it ; but it is like a diamond in 
a sfrrine — only to be gazed at Absolutely I 
must have it My father cannot want it now that 
he is deep in China or in the Bible. Nothing can 
be more simple than to find the key of the book- 
case. Papa is not always at home ; he walks 
out every day. ' The message-bearing Iris ' has 
come to fetch my letter, but my conscience will 
not allow me to send you such a scrap. I shall 
put you into a drawer till another day, and mind 
you are not stifled ! 

Saturday, 30th, since it is one o'clock in the morning. 

I do not like your historical studies and your 
diagrams century by century. Why amuse 
yourself (the word is ill chosen) by doing over 
again what Blair has done already ? Take him 
down from the book-case — he cannot be far 
from Tacitus— and learn him by heart Though 
what good would that be ? A young girl knows 


enough when she knows the names of all the great 
men ancient and modern, when she does not con- 
found Hannibal with Caesar, nor take Thrasymene 
for a general, nor Pharsalia for a Roman lady. 
Read Plutarch, and two or three books of that 
calibre, and you will be grounded for the rest of 
your life, without derogating from your charming 
title of— Woman. Would you become a blue- 
stocking ? Fie ! fie ! I am going to take on 
me the dignity of an elder brother, and scold you. 
Seriously, it is no jesting matter. Anyone, to read 
your letter, would take me for a Richelieu, in love 
with thirty-six women at once ! My heart is not 
so capacious ; and excepting yourself, whom I 
love to distraction, I love only one person at a 
time. This Laura tries to make me out a Love- 
lace ! If I were an Adonis there might be 
something to say. I have a swelled face. 

Saturday, 10 o'clock in the morning. 

As you take an interest in me, I may tell 
you I have slept well. How could it be other- 
wise when I dreamed of you, of mamma, of all my 
loves and hopes, and, in awakening, gave my 
first thought to you ? The news of my ménage is 
disastrous. That rascal Moi-même is every 
day more negligent. Hard work does not con- 


duce to cleanliness. Moi-même never goes out 
more than once in three or four days to make 
purchases ; he goes to the nearest shops — which 
are the worst in the neighbourhood; the others 
are too far off — and the rascal is economical of 
his trouble. The consequence is that your 
brother (destined to fame) is already living like a 
great man — that is to say, he is dying of hunger. 

With the Tacitus don't forget to send me 
a rug. If you could add to it an oldest of all 
old shawls, it would come in very useful. ' You 
laugh ? It is the very thing I want to complete 
my nocturnal apparel. My legs, which suffer 
most from the cold, were my first thought. I 
wrap those in the Tourangese 'carrick,' which 
Grogniart, 1 of needle-plying memory, botched 
up (cousillonna). The aforesaid carrick not 
coming higher than my waist, the upper man is 
left but ill protected from the frost, which has 
only the roof-tiling and a jacket of soft worsted 
to penetrate in order to reach your brother's skin 
— too tender, alas ! to bear with it As to my head, 
I reckon on a Dantesque skull-cap to enable it 
to brave the north wind. Thus equipped, I shall 
find my palace a most agreeable abode. 

1 A small tailor at Tours, who used to fit Balzac with his father's 
clothes, and pleased him but ill at it 


I wind up this letter as Cato wound up his 
harangues. He exclaimed, ' Let Carthage be de- 
stroyed ! ' My exclamation is, ' Let Tacitus be 
seized ! ' 

And I am, dear historian, the very humble 
servant of your four foot eight inches. 

You don't know it, but my conscience feels a 
positive pang of remorse at having left M. de 
Villiers, 1 who loves us so much, out of our secret 
I know of no one to whom he would be likely to 
betray us ; and, moreover, I have full faith in his 
discretion. I have reflected that, after so laborious 
a winter as I am about to pass, a few days in the 
country will be highly needful. No, mamma, it is 
not to escape from ma bonne vache enragée. I 
like my hard lines. But some one at your elbow 
will tell you that exercise and plenty of fresh air 
are very conducive to the health of man. Now, 
since Honoré cannot show himself at his father's, 
why should he not pay a visit to good M. de 
Villiers, who loves him even to the extent of har- 
bouring the rebel ? A thought, mother : suppose 
you wrote to him to settle all about this journey ? 
Come, the thing seems already done ; for, with all 

1 The Abbé de Villiers, a friend of the Balzacs who lived in re- 
tirement at Nogent, a little village near Tile Adam, Seine-et- 


your air of severity, we know how good you are at 
heart, and we are only half afraid of you. 

You wished for a long letter : I hope this 
one will reckon for something. I sometimes am 
sulky (bousard) with myself, and pout my lips 
in dudgeon. My good mamma is not here to 
say so, but I am the dupe of my own fancies — 
one moment gay, the next in the clouds. I am 
too changeable, and must shake off my own bad 

I have had a game of boston downstairs, and 
a boston a piccolo too, and I have won three 
francs ! If I don't take care, the lures of society 
will lay a hold on me. The said boston made me 
think of ours at home, consequently of you also. 
I lost all the time while I was so thinking. 

My letters are macédoines. I talk of a score of 
different subjects on the same page. 

When will you come and see me, warm your- 
self at my fire, drink my coffee, eat my scrambled 
eggs, for which you will have to bring a dish ? 

Adieu, soror ! I hope to have a letter sororis, 
to answer sorori, to see sororem, then, o soror ! 
but I shall also see the departure, sorore ! An- 
swer me at the same length I write to you. 

My face-ache is much better to-day. Alas! 
perhaps in a few years I shall only be able to 


eat bread crumb, bouillie, and old people's food 
I shall be obliged to scrape my radishes like 
grandmamma. It is in vain you say, ' Have it 
pulled out;' I prefer leaving it to Nature herself. 
Have the wolves dentists ? 

To M. Théodore Dablin. 


Paris : November 1819. 

My dear Daddy, — You never came ; the chair 
was again set in its place in vain. 

I want a very complete Latin Bible, with the 
French translation on the opposite page, if possible. 
I do not want the New Testament ; I have one. 

By the way, if Girodet sends his c Endymion ' 
to the exhibition, oblige me by procuring a ticket 
for the day when no one is supposed to be there. 

P.S. — You would make me happier still if 
you would make use of M. Pépin- Lehalleur, and 
procure me a pit ticket for the Français some day 
when ' Cinna ' is performed. 

I have never yet seen a single piece performed 
of my old general's, Corneille. This is wrong in a 
young soldier. 

To Mdlle. Laure de Balzac, Villeparisis. 
^ 1820. 

My dear Sister, — I commence by telling you 
that I love you with all my heart, and that I em- 


brace you, lest I should forget it in the course 
of my letter. I may vaunt myself with Petit- 
Jean % and say — 

Ce que je sais le mieux, c'est mon commencement. 1 

Ah! Laura, sororl what torments are mine! 
I shall address a petition to the Pope to reserve 
me the first vacant niche appropriated to martyrs. 
I have just discovered in my regicide a bad con- 
struction, and it swarms with halting verses. I am 
to-day a veritable pater dolorosw. I have hit upon 
a loophole for escape which scarcely pleases me. 
Oh ! if I am a Pradon, let me hang myself! When- 
ever you see a bad line, write in the margin, 
' Ware the gibbet ! ' I devour our four classical 
writers of tragedy. Crébillon gives me confidence, 
Voltaire terrifies me, Corneille delights me, Racine 
makes me lay down my pen. 

I must tell you that I am very angry with you. 
What, mademoiselle ! call your brother a giddy 
pate ? He is usually called a ninny-hammer ; this 
is more graphic. However, I am yet to learn 
why you called me giddy. I know not what 
nonsense daddy 2 has been talking about you this 
morning, and St. Cloud, and the month of Octo- 
ber, and a jaunt ; all I hope is that you will not 

1 What I know best is how I shall begin. 
a M. Dablin. 


put a stop to the little dinner breakfast in the 
Rue Lesdiguières. 

I see nothing of Iris Comin except on the 
wing, when she is always out of breath, although 
riding on her rainbow of a basket filled with 

Thanks for your affectionate messages, and 
your provisions. I recognised your hand in the jar 
of preserves and the flowers. Do your liqueurs 
succeed ? 

I am like N asking in this way after food 

(balagoinfre) ; but my tooth-ache prevents my 
eating, so I feast on words. Do you think of me 
as much as I think of you ? You are emmalust- 
fying x yourselves; and I — well, I'm amused at 
your emmalusification. 

Make a collection of all the hélas ! of your 
aunt Malus ; report to me the burthen of all her 

I look to you for a laugh ; you are my good 
Momus, for I can imagine I am making one at 
your state dinner ; your stories are the manna of 
my wilderness. 

You ask for news ; I must manufacture some. 
Not a soul calls on me in my garret I can only, 

1 A word invented by the Balzac family, meaning they were 
seeing much of a family called Malus. M. Malus was Balzac's uncle. 


therefore, speak of myself, and can send you 
nothing but nonsensical fables. 

Example : — 

A poor young fellow's head caught fire at 
9 Rue Lesdiguières, and the firemen were 
unable to extinguish it. It was kindled by a 
beautiful lady who is unknown to him. Rumour 
says that she lives at the Quatre-Nations, the 
other end of the Pont des Arts ; her name is 

The misfortune is that the incendiarised youth 
argues over his case, and soliloquises thus : — 

Whether I have genius or not, I am in either 
case laying myself out for a multitude of sorrows. 

Without genius, I am done for ! All my life 
will be a sense of unsatisfied yearnings, miserable 
jealousies, grievous hardships ! 

If I have genius, I shall be persecuted, ca- 
lumniated ; although I know very well that in that 
case Miss Glory will wipe away many a tear. 

I shall leave you now, and go to sleep. I 
have spent the night in deadly agony and torture. 
I am going to fill my mind with some pretty dream 
or another, of which I shall give you an account 
when I quit the arms of Madame Morpheus. 
Farewell, Laura = Dussek = Grétry = Balzac, 
charming sister ! I am laughing like any hunch- 


back as I embrace you. It is the beauty of phi- 
losophy that she can make you forget the sharpest 
pangs of grief. I am asleep. 

.... To-day I realise the truth that riches do 
not constitute happiness, and the period of my resi- 
dence here will be to me hereafter a source of 
happy recollection. To be able to live after my 
own fancy — to work according to my taste and after 
my own fashion — to shut my eyes to the future, 
which I paint in lovely colours — to think of you 
and know that you are happy — to have for a mis- 
tress the Julie of Rousseau — to have La Fontaine 
and Molière for my friends, Racine for my master, 
and Père la Chaise to take my walks in ! 

Oh, if this could only last for ever ! 

My only anxiety arises from my desire to dis- 
tinguish myself, and all my sorrows come from the 
lack of talent which I discover in myself. As for 
you, you can by practice increase the skill of 
your fingers ; but all the labour in the world will 
not give one a grain of genius. I leave you now 
to take a stroll in Père la Chaise, to make there 
some studies in sorrow. Tell papa and mamma 
how much I love them. You only can express 
my feelings. I leave the rest till my next. Adieu, 
Mdlle. Petrarch. Your grigou of a brother. 

Much love to Laurentia. I will never write 


to you again. I spend all my time in chattering 
to you, which could be better employed in working 
for our mutual glory — if I 

S To Mdlle. Laure de Balzac, VillepaHsis. 

Paris : September 1820. 

I have, ma chère bonne, taken a decided course 
with ' Cromwell.' Now that all is irrevocably 
fixed I have resolved to work at it in a different 
way. It is to be finished in five or six months, 
but roughly at a single sitting, because I wish 
to be able, the picture being once outlined, to 
lay on the colour at leisure. Perhaps I may 
send you, by the end of November or at the begin- 
ning of October, the first act. I hope you will 
be able to snip, slash, and hack at it at your ease 
and pleasure. 

I am beginning to sit up of nights comfortably 

enough, but the cold nips me (me pipe) (one of 

papa's words), and I shall make the acquisition of 

an old office arm-chair, which will at any rate 

protect my sides and back. Say nothing to my 

dear mother about my nocturnal labours, and 

don't speak to me about them yourself either. I 

must and will, though I should burst over it, come 

to an end with ' Cromwell,' and finish something 

before mamma comes and calls me to account for 

my time. 

vol. 1. K 


I am more strongly inclined than ever towards 
the career I have chosen, for a crowd of reasons, of 
which I shall only enumerate those that you might 
not, perhaps, perceive for yourself. We are far from 
being at the end of our revolutions; from the 
aspect of affairs at present I foresee many a storm 
yet to come. Good or bad, the representative 
system makes a call for the highest order of talent. 
Distinguished writers will necessarily be sought 
out in any political crisis. Do they not possess 
science, a spirit of observation, and a profound 
knowledge of the human heart ? 

If I have the true metal in me (though that 
remains to be ascertained), I may one day achieve 
something besides literary fame ; and to add to 
the title of an eminent writer that of an eminent 
citizen, is an object of ambition which may be 
allowed to tempt a man. Nothing, nothing but 
love and glory can ever fill all the vast space 
there is in my heart, and within which you your- 
self are conveniently lodged. 

Dear sister, my good, kind Laura, I should 
like to see you all richly bestowed, that I might 
no longer be plagued about my future destiny. 
There is in this matter a trifle of egotism, perhaps, 
but I shall be forgiven for the sake of the amount 
of good it would produce. 


Therefore in my desire for the success of my 
design concerning ' Cromwell ' there is a grain of 
self-interest; and I treat my poor tragedy like 
coffee-grounds. I calculate what I shall distil 
from it, to make myself independent I am like 
Perrette with her pitcher of milk, and the compa- 
rison will perhaps be only too well realised. 

If such a thing as genius were to be bought at 
Villeparisis, I would say, Buy me as much of it as 
you can ; but, alas ! it is neither sold, bought, nor 
given, and I want some terribly. 

Dear sister, think of me ; it is all I ask of you. 
Fair and tender-hearted maid, sighing after the 
Petrarch of Languedoc, try to light upon him in 
modern guise, with a rent-roll of four thousand a 
year and the post of Director-General. 



To Mdlle. Laure de Balzac, Villeparisis. 

Sent with the plot of the tragedy of ' Cromwell ' 

For yourself alone. 

Paris : 1820. 

Dear Laura, — No paltry gift, is it, nor any 
trifling proof of my friendship, that I here present, 
in admitting you to be a witness of the birth- 
throes of genius ? Laugh at me, if you will. 

k 2 


As the play is as yet only a sketch, I have 
left a margin whereon I allow you to inscribe 
your sublime observations. Notwithstanding the 
great licence I give, I beg you, mademoiselle, to 
read with respect the plan of the young Sopho- 
cles. To think that people may read in an hour 
what it has sometimes cost years to write ! 

Act I. 

Henrietta of England, overwhelmed with 
fatigue and disguised in humble habiliments, 
enters Westminster, supported by the son of 
Strafford. She is returning from a long journey. 
She has been to Holland, by order of Charles I., 
to take her children there, and to solicit the assis- 
tance of the Court of France. Strafford, in tears, 
informs her of the latest events. The King, a 
prisoner in Westminster, accused by the Parlia- 
ment, awaits his sentence. You will understand 
how the Queen is stirred at this intelligence ; 
she is bent on sharing the fate of her husband. 

Enter Cromwell and his son-in-law, Ireton. 
They have appointed this spot to meet the con- 
spirators. The Queen, terrified, conceals herself 
behind a royal tomb. 

The conspirators arrive, and she overhears 
them debate whether the King shall be put to 


death or not A very violent scene, in which 
Fairfax (an honest fellow) defends the life of the 
illustrious prisoner and unmasks the ambition of 
Cromwell. The latter dissipates the suspicion of 
his followers. After which they decide on the 
penalty of death. 

The Queen rises from her place of concealment 
and makes them a tremendous speech. Cromwell 
and his friends let her have her say, delighted to 
have secured the victim they wanted. He goes 
out with his accomplices to secure the success 
of their plans, and the Queen proceeds to visit the 

Act II 

Charles I., alone, passes in review the facts 
and occurrences of his reign. What a soliloquy ! 

The Queen enters. Here again talent will be 
in considerable demand ! Conjugal love in this 
scene makes up the whole bill of fare. It should 
blaze and glow through the entire piece. There 
must prevail throughout this painful interview a 
tone so melancholy and so tender that I already 
despair ; it simply implies reaching the sublime. 

Cromwell comes to fetch the King, to bring 
him before the court. Another difficult scene, 
where the characters of three interlocutors so 


different from each other must be brought into 
relief. A difficult historical study. 

Strafford comes to inform the Queen that a 
small army of Royalists have seized Cromwell's 
sons, returning from the subjugation of Ireland. 

By placing Cromwell in a cleft stick between 
his sons and the Crown, the King may perhaps 
be saved. The act ends with this gleam of 

Act III. 

Cromwell waits on the Queen. The latter ex- 
plains what you already know, and forces on him 
the alternative of declaring himself one way or the 
other. Great struggle in the inward soul of the 
Protector. The King enters and announces to 
Cromwell that he has ordered his sons to be set 
free unconditionally. Cromwell quits the stage, 
leaving the spectator in suspense. Some other 
scenes between the Queen, the King, and after- 
wards Strafford, who urges upon the King that he 
is bringing himself under the axe again. All pro- 
ceed to Westminster. 

Act IV. 

Cromwell enters. Ambition takes the upper 
hand. The Parliament assembles. The King 


appears before it, and speaks for the first and last 
time in a tone. . . . (Here is the place to be sub- 
lime !) The Queen, roused to indignation, comes 
forward and defends (Heaven knows how elo- 
quendy) her devil of a husband. Cromwell, 
seeing that Parliament is softened, orders the 
King and Queen to withdraw, that they may 
deliberate. At the moment the guards are leading 
them away the Queen makes a last effort to pre- 
vail with Cromwell ; she offers him honours, titles, 
&c. Cromwell remains unmoved. The Queen 
leaves the stage in despair. 

Act V. (and the most difficult of all). 

The sentence is not yet known ; but Charles 
I., who entertains no false hopes, confers with the 
Queen on the subject of his last wishes. (What 
a scene!) Strafford has learnt the King's doom, 
and comes to announce it to his master, that he 
may be prepared before the sentence is read to 
him. (What a scene \ ) Ireton enters to fetch the 
King and to bring him before his judges. Charles 
I. tells Strafford that he reserves for him the honour 
of attending him to the scaffold. Farewell scene 
between the King and the Queen. (What a 
scene!) Fairfax enters hastily. He warns the 
Queen of her danger. She must fly instantly. It is 


intended to detain her as a prisoner, and to bring 
her also to trial. 

The Queen, absorbed in her grief, at first hears 
not a word of this, then suddenly she bursts forth 
in imprecations against England. She will live for 
vengeance ; she will stir up enemies against her in 
all directions. France shall go to war with her, 
prevail over her, and eventually crush her. 

This will be the feu de joie, and I promise 
you it shall be touched with the hand of a 

Thereupon the pit, bathed in tears, will go 
home to bed. 

Shall I have sufficient talent ? I intend my 
tragedy to be the breviary of nations and of 

I must start with a chef-d'oeuvre or twist my 

I entreat you in the name of our fraternal love 
never to say, ' That is good/ Discover my faults 
only ; as for the beauties, I know all about 

Should any thoughts strike you as you go 
along, write them on the margin. Never mind the 
pretty things ; I only want the sublime. 

It is impossible you should not find this plot 
superb. What a splendid exhibition ! How the 


interest rises from scene to scene ! The incident 
of Cromwell's sons is admirably ingenious. I 
have also been very happy in devising the cha- 
racter of Strafford's son. The magnanimity of 
Charles I., restoring the sons of Cromwell to him, 
is finer than that of Augustus pardoning Cinna. 

There are indeed a few defects here and 
there, but I shall remove them. 

I was so worked upon by all that you wrote, 
that I felt as much moved as if it had been 
over some line in ' Cromwell/ 

If only the Château 1 does not forbid my 

If I were to give way to my feelings I should 
fill a ream of paper writing to you ; but there is 
1 Cromwell ! Cromwell ! ' calling me. 

What costs me most thought is the description. 
That young jackanapes Strafford must draw the 
portrait of the regicide, and Bossuet is a phantom 
in my path. 

No matter ; I have already done a verse or 
two, which are not so badly turned. 

Ah, sister ! sister ! what hopes ! and what dis- 
appointment, perhaps ! 

1 The ' Château ' in those days meant the Tuileries. 


To Madame Surville, 1 Baveux. 

Villeparisis : June 1821. 

If you wish to know exactly what is the situa- 
tion of affairs here, picture to yourself first papa 
pacing up and down his room immediately after 
having the paper read to him ; next mamma in her 
bed, who will not yet allow that she is cured of an 
imaginary inflammation of the lungs ; Laurentia 
by her side ; and lastly your dear brother writing in 
front of the fireplace on the little piece of furni- 
ture that used formerly to support your writing- 
desk. I have just come from the He Adam, and 
I cannot be expected to be so well up in all that 
has happened as to write at any length. 

But what I can tell you is this : that I think 
of you often. You know there are certain words 
which I take up and drop again every new moon. 
Well, for the last six weeks my word has been 
1 And Bayeux ? ' But mordicus it shall remain for 
ever, moons notwithstanding. 

A piece of news that will make a sensation 
down in the country is the laying down of sand in 
Laurentia's arbour and in our fore-court. 

The day before yesterday was the festival of 

1 In May 1820 Laura de Balzac married M. Surville, an engineer 
in the Ponts et Chaussées department La Vieille Fille is dedicated 
to M. Surville. 


Villeparisis — a gloomy affair enough to us. So 
was not the last festival. In those days there was 
a young troubadour who hovered round Made- 
moiselle Laure. At the present date complete 
absence of troubadours. I hope you mean to 
describe your apartments, that we may see you 
there trotting, straightening, rummaging, as you 
may, in your imagination, behold us circling, trot- 
ting, roaming, about the house. Tell us, please, 
what sort of a town is that which calls itself 
Bayeux — whether it be like any other place ; if 
there be men there and women ; what may be the 
costume of the natives, their mode of speech, 
manners, and customs. 

Yesterday we saw M. Auguste Perrault, who 
complains that Surville has not written a word to 
him about his letters of introduction. He wishes to 
know if your husband has made any use of them, if 
he thinks they will bring forth any good results, if 

— if &c. I say all this by order. We told him 

that for the first few days after settling down in 
the country there were things to be done which 
precluded all possibility of writing, and that Sur- 
ville was very busy. 

Dear sister, I am told that you urge my 
coming to see you. You know I am snapt up for 
the summer, and I promised you should have me 


next March. I shall keep my word ; but for the 
present Dr. Nacquart packs me off to Touraine. 
I thank you none the less kindly for your invi- 
tation ; be well assured that the most mighty 
motives must come into play ere I am prevented 
setting off to keep you company. 

Farewell, dear sister. I embrace you with all 
my heart. Friendly remembrances to Surville, 
who goes halves with you in all I have said. 

Laurentia puts in a claim for her share of 
the paper. I must not be a step-brother {fré- 
râtrê) and rob her of her lines. Farewell, then. 

To Madame Surville, Baveux. 

Villeparisis : June 1821. 

Dear Sister, — .... What you tell me about 
your low spirits surprises me. I thought you 
were more of a philosopher ! What, my sister, do 
you not know that fretting is of no earthly use ? 
Even if your melancholy were increased a hundred- 
fold, would these hundred and one doses of chagrin 
remove one single mile-stone on the road that 
separates Bayeux from Paris ? or would they 
abridge by one fraction the seventy leagues, which 
I curse from my heart because they separate you 
from us ? I should blame you much if you were 
to forget us, for we are all eminently worthy of re- 


membrance ; but I blame you equally when I see 
you so depressed at our separation, because, in one 
word, which is as good as a hundred, this wretch 
Melancholy does nothing to bring us into each 
other's presence. 

Oh, what a great man and an honest citizen 
was Roger Bontemps ! Conform to his precepts, 
dear sister : be merry, take comfort ; send that 
brilliant imagination of yours on its travels ; set it a 
task ; devise plans ; fancy yourself possessed of 
Astolfo's steed ; mount him and gallop off to Ville- 
parisis ; calmness and content will be yours once 
more, at least so long as the journey lasts. Do 
not write to us in so doleful a strain ; it gives me 
a longing to set off to Bayeux, to line your 
cupboards with paper, scrutinise your internal 
arrangements, your inlaid parquets, your lamps, 
and perhaps even to see Madame Surville her- 
self. . . . 

You have to bear the sorrow of separation 
from your family. Have we not to endure that 
of no longer seeing you among us, laughing, skip- 
ping, gambolling, wrangling, chattering? Have 
I not to bear (you see self creeps always in), to be, 
at the age of twenty-two, without independence, 
with neither prospect nor position, subject to 
endless vexations ? . . . 


Fortunately within the last fortnight I have 
hit upon a plan for securing to myself one hundred 
thousand crowns, to be extracted from the public 
purse ; I am to receive the same by instalments in 
exchange for a certain number of novels, for which 
at Bayeux there will be an enormous demand. 

Talking of Bayeux, can you explain why the 
street you live in should be called Rue Teinture ? 
Not a shadow of a reason has yet dawned upon 

There is a piece of news which the papers are 
not likely to give except imperfectly. 

The anniversary of the death of poor Lalle- 
mand was to have been celebrated by a funeral 
service. When the students came to St. Eustache 
the doors were closed ; a strip of paper pasted up, as 
when a theatrical performance is put off, announced 
that, by command of the authorities, the service 
would not take place. The young fellows added 
in pencil that, 'in accordance with the present 
excessive freedom of worship, the friends of the 
deceased were invited to assemble at the Boulevard 
Bonne- Nouvelle, and thence to proceed to Père 
la Chaise.' By pure chance there came to the 
rendezvous seven or eight thousand persons, all 
in black coats. But the garrison of Paris and the 
gendarmerie guarded the approaches to the ceme- 


tery. The students attempted to break through 
in defiance of orders. An officer gave the word 
to fire ; the gendarmes refused to obey ; and a young 
man (a desperado, say the ultras) had himself lifted 
from hand to hand over the heads of the crowd till 
he reached the officer who had given the order to 
fire ; then, baring his breast, he said, * If you want 
another victim, strike here. I am ready, for I 
know that my death will serve the cause of free- 
dom.' ' Bravo ! ' shouted the crowd. ' Long live 
the soldiers ! Long live the gendarmes ! ' There- 
upon the crowd betook themselves to an adjoining 
field, formed a circle, and a student, in the midst 
of the most solemn silence, delivered an address, 
at the close of which all present swore to return 
the following year, 'wearing black for our lost 
liberties.' After this they all departed, walking 
two and two, raising their hats as they passed the 
house of M. Camille Jordan, who had died the 
evening before, and also as they passed the house 
of young Lallemand. 1 This solemnity has caused 
a great sensation in Paris. 

Let me tell you in confidence that our poor 
mother is becoming like grandmamma, and may be 

1 Lallemand was a young law student who was shot on June 3, 
1820, in the Place du Carrousel by a soldier of the Royal Guard in 
the midst of a meeting of the people, occasioned by an unpopular 


worse. It was only yesterday I again heard her 
complaining like grandmamma ; fidgetting about the 
evening chills like grandmamma ; taking grudges 
against Laurentia or Honoré ; changing her mind 
with the suddenness of lightning, &c. &c. — all like 
grandmamma. Perhaps it is the very fear that my 
mother should fall into this weakness which makes 
me see things in this light. What most distresses 
me is the morbid sensibility which prevails at 
home. Though there are but four of us we are 
like a small town ; we watch one another like 
Montécuculli and Turenne. For instance, the 
other day I came back weary and worried from 
Paris, and never thought of thanking mamma, who 
had had a black coat made for me. At my age 
such gifts hardly make the same impression as of 
old, although it would not have given me much 
trouble to appear touched by her kindness, espe- 
cially as I knew it had been a sacrifice ; but I 
forgot what I ought to have remembered. Mamma 
sulked, and you know what an air and what a 
countenance she has on these occasions. I was 
amazed, and pricked up my ears to find out 
what I had done. Fortunately Laurentia came 
and told me what was the matter, and two or 
three graceful words brightened up the face of 
mamma. This is a mere nothing, a drop of water, 


but it will give you a sample of our ways. 
Ah, we are tremendous originals in this holy 
family of ours. What a pity I cannot put our- 
selves into novels. 

I hope that, better than all the descriptions in 
the world, this will carry you back amongst us all. 
Alas ! how comes it we do not exercise a little in- 
dulgence in our mode of life, instead of always 
seeking where a wound can be inflicted ? No 
one will consent to live in that state of open 
frankness (bonne flanquette *) that papa, you, and I 
used to live in. I think Surville also would have 
been one of us. Nothing so offends me as to see 
those immensely demonstrative people who stifle 
one in their embraces, who scream at one's egotism 
if one wards off their exaggerated nonsense, and 
who cannot form the smallest conception of any 
inward sentiment that refuses to show itself. 

Here's an expenditure of brilliancy. I don't 
know myself again. You and I are together ; let 
us leave cleverness aside and stick to the affection 
we have ever had for one another. 

Ah ! ah ! it would seem that my fine scrawls 
are rather a take-in for the Post Office ; they cheat 
it of at least three sheets of paper ; but our Govern- 

1 A malaprop of which Balzac was very fond. A la bonne flan- 
quette is a countrified expression for open speaking. 

VOL. I. L 


ment is not liberal enough to induce me to write 
in large hand. I am not like you, who make your 
letters so large that they look like the inscription 
outside an inn, except that they are not printed. 
You might have put three times as much matter 
into your three pages. You are not aware that 
Laurentia has taken a violent fancy to Augustus 

de L . Say nothing that might lead them to 

suspect I have betrayed the secret, but I have 
had all the trouble in the world to get it into 
her head that authors are the most villanous of 
matches (in respect of fortune, be it understood). 
Really Laurentia is quite romantic. How she 
would hate me if she knew with what irreverence 
I allude to her tender attachment. Oh, the curse 
of money ! But don't be anxious : if I should 
chance to turn out a man of talent, I mean to 
heap up enough money for all of us. 

You may write to me once more at Ville- 
parisis before I start for Touraine ; I don't go 
till the 28th or 30th of June. I will write to you 
myself once or twice during my expedition. 

What more have I to say ? That I think of 
you, I will not say continually, but sufficiently 
often, especially towards the end of dinner. It is a 
habit I have ; and, as we dine at about the same 
hour as you do, you may about dessert time say to 


yourself, ' Honoré is thinking of us. He is a very 
good fellow, is that boy. If his letter were sent 
to the press it would make thirty pages of print/ 
Great Heaven ! why didn't I put it into my 
novel ? It would have been so much ground got 
over. But you know that when I write to you I 
chatter like a magpie with one eye, and cast 
off my accustomed taciturnity. May my letter 
enliven you. Heaven grant you may be sad no 
more ! 

And now farewell, sister. Get up out of our 
easy chair and show your brother out, who is now 
standing at your drawing-room door. * Look how 
well the lamps burn.' ' Yes, don't they ? ' Ah, that 
clock is tastefully designed.' ' Now mind you are 
coming to dinner. Take care not to lose your 
way about Bayeux.' ' Pshaw ! you can send round 
the crier with his drum for me.' ' Five o'clock, 
mind.' ' Yes.' * Well,' says Surville, who meets me 
as I am going out, ' you are going to take a walk ? ' 
1 Yes.' ' Wait a moment ; I'll come with you/ 

Oh ! the pity it should only be a dream ! 

Farewell, then. I embrace you affectionately. 

t. 2 


To Madame Surville. 

^ Paris : 1821. 

It is difficult when I write to you not to touch 
upon the subject of the troubadour, 1 and you 
will have as many versions of the story as you 
receive letters. We have seen the whole family, 
not omitting even a niece, who is charming. 

But let us proceed in due order. 

The grandmamma is a little, dried-up old 
woman, said to be mighty amiable. Imagine a 
woman half-way between Madame de Castan and 
our grandmamma, with something of both, and 
you will have a tolerably exact idea of her. The 
mother I have not beheld with my own eyes, but 
it seems she is a woman of the highest breeding 
and quick as gunpowder. She embraced Laurentia 
with cordiality, unusual in the race of mothers-in- 
law. I wish I may have such another. She tells 
her what her son has said in her praise, and finds 
it all more than deserved. I should imagine her 
to be nervous, and I pity those who live with 
nervous people. There is also a sister-in-law, who 
has passed the age of love-making, and is conse- 
quently up to the chin in piety ; but she is said not 

1 Mademoiselle Laurence de Balzac was about to be married 
to M. de Montzaigle, and Honoré jestingly gives this name to her 


to look her years and to be truly amiable. There 
is a second sister, who is married to an auditor of 
the Council of State, who will one day have 
30,000 francs a year. This one is very pretty, 
amiable, and not stiff. I have not seen her myself, 
but I have seen the brother-in-law, a pretty little 
man with a full-moon face. In short, if there is a 
Paradise on earth it certainly is the family into 
which Laurentia is about to enter, if it so please 

Yesterday we saw Laurentia's future aunt, the 
second daughter of her intended husband's grand- 
mother, Madame Cassière, the wife of the Direc- 
tor of the Commissariat — you may have heard 
papa speak of her — and it is she who has the 
pretty daughter whom I mentioned at the begin- 
ning of my letter. 

If you, in your town of Bayeux and your Rue 
Teinture, wish to form an idea of what she is like, 
you have only to put both your hands over your 
lovely brown eyes and call up in your recollection 

the image of that little lady from M. de M , 

one of his nieces who is so pretty, but whose name 
I forget Imagine her face embellished by a 
divine smile, a figure somewhat taller, fuller, and 
more gracefully moulded, and you will have an 
accurate notion of the future cousin. 


Lastly comes the intended husband himself. 
He is a little taller than Surville ; he has a 
commonplace face, neither ugly nor handsome; 
his upper jaw is bereft of teeth, which ages him 
considerably. In other respects, as husbands go, 
he is rather better than worse. He writes verses. 
He is a wonderful shot He has never attended 
more than two matches, and he carried off the 
prize on each occasion. He is also one of the 
most expert of billiard-players. He hunts; he 
drives ; he — he — he — in short, you must perceive 
that all these talents,, when possessed by one man 
and carried to the highest degree of perfection, 
must naturally inspire and excuse a certain 
amount of self-sufficiency ; and this is the case 
with him up to a certain point, which point is not 
exactly the lowest in the barometer of vanity. 
But, as in our celestial family we are all pretty 
well provided with that quality, we scarcely notice 
it in him. Indeed, we say that when a man does 
everything so well he may be allowed to have a 
good conceit of himself. He wishes Lauren tia 
to be happy. The absence of a piano will be 
compensated by diamond earrings. The corbeille 
will be beautiful. In short, all goes upon wheels, 
and those wheels are smooth and steady. 

Mamma finds that her future son-in-law con- 


ducts himself admirably— very admirably. He 
always embraces mamma, and has never yet kissed 
Laurentia except on the day of the betrothal. 

On the whole you know that Laurentia is as 
beautiful as a picture — that she has the prettiest 
of arms and hands, that her complexion is pale 
and lovely. In conversation people give her 
credit for plenty of sense, and find that it is all a 
natural sense, which is not yet developed. She 
has beautiful eyes, and though pale many men 
admire that ; and I have no doubt she will be 
very happily married. Grandmamma is in a great 
state of delight ; papa is quite satisfied — so am 
I — so are you. As to mamma, recall the last days 
of your own detnoisellerie, and you will have some 
idea of what Laurentia and I have to endure. 
Nature surrounds all roses with thorns ; mamma 
follows of nature. 

1 H enry is not happy. That child is being fagged ; 
he will never do anything : he must he sent to 
another school. He is with a canting set ; his 
education will be spoiled. They keep the children 
in ; they crush them with punishments for mere 
trifles, &c. &c.' 

You are to understand it is mamma who is 

I have in my eye a little room I can move 


into on the 15th of this month, for I decidedly 
must shut myself up : my work will go on all the 

I am in hopes of being able to k sell a novel 
every month for six hundred francs ; this will be 
enough to rub along with till affluence comes, 
which I shall be delighted to share with you all ; 
for that it will come, I make no earthly doubt. 

I pity mamma's malady very much. There is 
no one in the world to tell her of it. It would 
make her the most wretched of women were she 
to suspect that while she fancies she is doing 
everything for the happiness of those around her 
she does the contrary. 

Farewell. I embrace you with all my heart, and 
earnestly beseech you to fight against your ner- 
vous feelings. My kind remembrance to Surville. 

You said you were reading ' Clarissa Harlowe ;' 
try and read 4 Julie ' next. I strongly advise you 
to read ' Kenilworth/ Walter Scott's last novel ; 
it is the finest thing in the world. 

My novel is finished ; I hold the last chapters 
in my hands. I will send it to you on condition 
that you do not lend it, but as a matter of course 
vaunt it as a masterpiece. You will feel that 
under existing circumstances I can neither go to 
Bayeux nor visit Touraine ; and if I quit the 


paternal mansion it is because I am obliged to 
work at novels which require research and assidu- 
ous labour. 

To Madame Surville. 

Villeparisis : 1821. 

My dear Sister, — Laurentia ought to be able to 
tell you more in two lines than I could in a long 
discourse. She being one of the interested parties, 
would naturally find better words. I am but 
a simple spectator, and, up to the present moment, 
the only observation that I can make is that the 
action of this drama does not proceed quickly 
enough. I want to see the winding up, and con- 
sequently the altar. 

At last my impatience has been pacified by 
the signing of the contract A soirée was given 
on this occasion, at which there were ices, relations, 
friends, plenty of acquaintances even, cakes, 
sweetmeats, and other good things, among which 
must be counted Henry, 1 some rarities, such as 

Cousin M . All these were contained in our 

little drawing-room, talking, moving about, staring, 
and admiring the corbeille. I have only seen a 
future sister-in-law of Laurentia, who is as beau- 
tiful as an angel of Paradise, straight as a reed, and 

1 The youngest of Madame de Balzac's four children. 


very engaging. She has bewitched me — really and 
truly. You want to know the minutest details, 
and you address yourself to me — to me, the most 
sorrowful of men, the most melancholy, the most 
unhappy of all the unhappy persons who vegetate 
under this celestial vault, que V Eternel a brillantée 
de ses mains puissantes. . . . ' What sorrows can I 
have ? ' Well, it is a sorrowful litany that cannot 
be touched on during these days of merrymaking. 
I shall wait for the first fast-day that comes in the 
calendar before I speak. In this frame of mind 
how can you expect me to tell you of all the num- 
berless little events that go on here ? 

The troubadour comes every day to breakfast, 
to dine, and to pay assiduous court. Nevertheless 
I do not find in his ways, smiles, words, actions, or 
gestures anything which marks affection as I under- 
stand it. Now, on my soul and conscience, I 
would not marry a girl who did not make me love 
her with much love. From all this many deep 
thoughts have arisen in my mind as to the way 
in which such an engagement is entered upon. 

I have no doubt, however, but that Laurentia 
will be happy, for she marries an amiable man, 
who is clever and who has a happy temper ; but, 
as I believe that everyone ought to feel in the social 
state, as it is in nature, the result of one combined 


harmony, I shall desire to find this sympathetic 
harmony if ever I marry. 

Presents, gifts, useless objects, two, three, or 
four months of courtship, do not make happiness ; 
it is a solitary flower, very difficult to find ; and 
yet one is so unhappy alone, so unhappy in society, 
so unhappy when dead, so unhappy whilst alive, 
that one must not be too particular about its 

You see I am not always merry. 

) * To Madame Surville. 

Paris : 1822. 

My dear Sister, — I must tell you that I am in 
a state of delight, for ' L'Héritière de Birague ' has 
been sold for eight hundred francs. And we are 
certain of the sale of the first copy, for grand- 
mamma intends to buy it But, on the other hand, 
I am ill, because I have a cough which tears my 
poor little body to pieces ; yet I am glad, because 
my next novel is to be sold for a thousand francs. 
I am sorry, because I am so battered. The 
frigate ' La Honoré ' has been so much knocked 
about in this first voyage that it is necessary to 
return to Villeparisis to refit. 

I do not ask you if you are very busy, as you 
have a guest who appears to enjoy herself at 


Bayeux. In all ways I have behaved with negli- 
gence towards grandmamma, to whom I have not 
written once ; but I am going to address a half- 
sheet of affectionate things to her. 

I am making the grandest projects in the 
world. When my novels are worth two thousand 
francs I shall take a wise and faithful wife, if I 
can, and set up a pretty little house, all new and 
varnished like a German toy. In truth, an author 
ought to be married ; thus Madame de Balzac the 
younger will be very happy. Do, pray, come back 
to Paris, because by the time I have reached that 
point you must have the goodness to choose her for 
me. She must be on your model ; otherwise I do 
not want her. ... So pray be on the look-out to find 
your own likeness some five or eight years hence. 

Alas ! I forgot that I ought to have begun my 
letter with an imprecation upon all sisters. . . . Oh ! 
naughty sister ! Oh ! sister who does not write ! 
Oh ! sister who neglects her brother ! 

Post time is come ; I am stupid, I am ill, and I 
love you — four reasons for ending my letter. 

I embrace you a thousand and a thousand 


To Madame Surville. 

(Fragment of a letter, without a beginning.) 

t Villeparisis : 1822. 

• ■•••• 

As to papa, he is a pyramid of Egypt, im- 
movable amid the rocking of the world, growing 
younger, &c. &c, whilst mamma, always on the 
road to Paris, makes up by her activity for papas im- 
mobility. Henry is either a jewel or a scatterbrain, 
which you like ; I declare I have no idea which he 
is. Our poor dear father has had a terrible accident. 
He went to Paris a fortnight ago to receive the 
visits of Madame de Montzaigle and of the grand- 
mother. In spite of our remonstrances he insisted 
upon returning immediately to Villeparisis. While 
he was in the carriage he had his left eye lacerated 
and injured by the lash of the coachman's whip. 
What an omen — a coachman's whip to touch this 
grand old age, the joy and pride of us all ! At 
first we thought the harm done was more than 
happily was the case My fathers apparent calm 
troubled me ; I would rather have heard com- 
plaints ; and I thought complaints would be a 

relief. But he is so justly proud of his moral 
courage that I dared not attempt to console him, 


and one feels the suffering of an old man as one 
would that of a woman. 

I could neither think nor work ; but still I 
must write, write every day in order to win that 
independence which is denied me. I must en- 
deavour to become free by means of novels ; and 
what novels ! Ah, Laura, what a downfall for my 
ideas of glory ! 

With fifteen hundred francs of certain income I 
could work for celebrity ; but time is needed for 
such work, and in the meantime one must live, and 
I have only this ignoble method of making myself 
independent. The days melt away in my hand 
like ice in the sun. 

If I do not make money soon the spectre of 
that old plan will reappear : nevertheless I shall 

not be a notary, for M. S has just died ; but I 

believe that M. G is quietly looking out for 

a place for me. What a terrible man ! Con- 
sider me as dead if they cap me with this extin- 
guisher ; I shall become a mill-horse, who does his 
thirty or forty turns in an hour, with his stated 
times for stopping, eating, and drinking. 

And this is called living, this mechanical 
rotation, this perpetual return of the same things. 

Still, if there were only some one to throw some 
charm on my cold existence ! I do not possess 


the flowers of life, though I am in the season 
when they bloom. What good will fortune and 
enjoyment be when my youth is passed ? Of 
what good are the clothes of the actor when he 
has played his part ? The old man is one who 
has dined and watches the others eat ; and I am 
young, my plate is empty and I am hungry. Laura, 
Laura, my two sole and immense desires are to 
be famous and to be beloved. Will they be ever 
satisfied ? You ask me for the details of a fête, 
and to-day I am full of sorrows. Good-bye. A 
thousand kind things to Surville. Do beg 
Surville to enquire in what part of Normandy is 
Château-Gaillard, or the Château Gaillard. Next 
tell me if there be a library at Bayeux or Caen ; 
if your husband has the privilege of obtaining 
books from it, and if there are many works on 
the history of France, especially private memoirs 
throwing light on the several epochs. The 
novel I intend to write will be on the subject 
either of the madness of Charles VI. and the 
Armagnac or Burgundian factions, or else on that 
of the conspiracy of Amboise, or the massacre 
of St. Bartholomew, or the earlier period of French 

My journey is still dependent on pecuniary 
considerations of serious import It is possible 


that on January 15, if the press should be 
enslaved, we may start a paper. If the journals 
preserve their freedom we shall not. In the next 
place, if our ' Damné* and our ' Mendiant 'were not 
finished they would have to be finished ; if they 
are put into rehearsal I shall have to stop here. I 
foresee a good many hitches. If I can make out 
a couple of months clear I shall rush down and 
write my novel. If I sell my ' Beau Juif n dear — two 
thousand francs, for instance — I stick to novels. 
I shall be free, because six novels a year will 
bring 12,000 francs. But what chances may 
interfere ! 

Shall I send you ' L'Héritière de Birague/ or 
would you rather ask for it at Bayeux or Caen, if 
the booksellers there will send for it, and perhaps 
get us a sale for it in Normandy ? 

Praise it to the Bayeux ladies, that the book- 
sellers may not lose, and you may describe my 
novels in simple terms as masterpieces. 

I have fallen heir to your pretty room with 
the Scotch paper, and the little truckle bed, and 
that little draught from under papas door; but 
I have not that pretty little face, like one of 
Raphael's Madonnas, that used to peep out from 
the pillow when Mademoiselle Laure was there, 

1 A novel afterwards published under the title of L * Israélite. 


but in its stead may be seen a yellow, ugly face, 

which belongs to your most honoured brother. 

I have no time to read over what I have 

written, nor even to write. If you find ' I love 

you' written thrice, imagine that, as I have 
written it oftener, it ought to come oftener. 

I shall wind up with a domestic picture. 1 

' Louise, give me a glass of water, will you ? ' 

1 Yes, madame/ 

' Oh ! my poor head ! I am very ill ; I am indeed/ 

' Bah, madame ! ' 

4 It is worse than it ever was before/ 

' Well, madame, you see ' 

' My head is splitting/ 

These last words, uttered in a dying voice, are 
suddenly interrupted by a scream. ' Louise, the 
shutters are banging in a way to shatter every 
pane of glass ! ' 

I suppose at this moment Surville is holding 
his hands quite ready that their grasp of mine 
may be complete. I think of the dear engineer as 
always as plump as ever, in excellent health, in 
excellent spirits, singing over his work, eating in 
haste, drinking, dancing first on one foot, then 
on the other, indulging in only one idea at a time, 
and that in the eyes of his wife he is un amour, 

1 To give an idea of his mother's nervousness. 
VOL. I. M 


except that he has no wings and that he is armed 
with a pair of compasses. I embrace him with all 
my heart, and wish him a continuance of the 
thousandfold prosperity which is sure to come to 
him sooner or later. Honoré, 

Public writer and French poet 
at two francs a page. 

To Madame Surville. 

Villeparisis : 1822. 

I write to-day on matters of the deepest im- 
portance. The question is to find out what 
people will think of us. 

You fancy, perhaps, from this exordium that I 
am making myself anxious as to what Bayeux, 
Caen, and all Normandy think of my lovely works ? 

Well, yes ! but this matter is far weightier. 

The subject in debate, ma chère, is my mother s 
journey to visit you, and here are the problems 
you have to solve in your reply : — 

What is Bayeux ? Must we go there with 
black footmen, horses, carriages, diamonds, laces, 
cashmeres, an escort of cavalry or infantry — that is 
to say, are high dresses or low dresses the fashion ? 
Ought the costume to be serta or buffa ? 

In what key must one sing ? Upon which 
foot must one dance ? What's the right tone in 


which to converse ? Who are the right people to 
visit with ? Tontaine ton ton ! 

It is not for me to venture into the depths of 
such important subjects ; discuss them ; resolve 
them : a weighty responsibility will be weighing 
on your shoulders within a very short time; I 
cannot disguise the fact from you ; I am willing 
to be your humble servant in all matters save in 
this alone. 

Mamma has so many preparations to make for 
this journey that she has no time to write, and I 
am charged with the agreeable task. Thus I am 
to inform you that Laurentia has lost no time in 
writing to us that her hopes of maternity are as- 
sured. Papa continues well, and cured himself 
a fortnight ago of an aneurism in the leg. Grand- 
mamma begs me to say all the pretty things she 
would write if that unfortunate malady did not rob 
her of all her faculties ! Nevertheless she begins 
to think her head is better, and if the spring comes 
there is every reason to hope she will recover her 
wonted gaiety. 

I should have a most fertile imagination if I 
could think of any family events to tell you. Call 
up one of the days of old ; such are our days at 
present, save that we have lost you and Laurentia 
and are far from having filled your places. 

m 2 


There is nothing new in Paris but what you 
already know. I mean General Berton's appeal to 
arms ; the missionaries and the dispersion of the 
schools ; the enthusiasm over the nomination of 
Liberal Deputies ; then Talma, who makes up like 
Bonaparte in the part of Sylla, and whom every- 
body is rushing to see. 

Pray shake your husband by the hand and let 
him take the half of all the affectionate messages 
I send you. Grandmamma embraces you, and so 
does papa ; and mamma is in the seventh heaven 
at the prospect of this journey. Farewell. I 
embrace you with all my heart, and beg you will 
believe that my affection is not diminished an 
atom by distance or by my silence. There are tor- 
rents that make a terrible rush, and yet their 
beds are quite dry a few days after ; but there are 
waters which flow sluggishly, but flow for ever. 


To Madame Sur ville. 

D Villeparisis : 1822. 

To the Casket containing all things delightful ; 
to the Elixir of Virtue, of Grace, and of 
Beauty ; to the Gem, to the Prodigy, of all Nor- 
mandy ; to the Pearl of Bay eux ; to the Fairy 
of St. Laurence ; to the Madonna of the Rue 
Teinture ; to the Guardian Angel of Caen ; to 
the Goddess of Enchanting Spells; to the 
Treasury of all Friendship — to Laura ! 

My dear Sister, — You know those old comedies 
wherein Crispin, Lafleur, or Labranche, after prac- 
tising some abominable trick on that good M. 
Géronte, throw themselves on their knees, confess 
their transgressions, and sue for pardon on the aus- 
picious occasion of Mademoiselle Lucile's marriage. 
Well, then, imagine your poor brother on his 
knees before you; turning up his eyes like a mis- 
sionary priest delivering a homily, and supplicating 
you not to visit him with your displeasure because 
he has not written to you. He twists and turns his 
hat, waiting till the corners of Laura's pretty little 
mouth begin to dimple and then laugh heartily at the 
attitude of Sir Honoré. Am I forgiven ? Yes. 


Concerning Vilkparisis. 

Let me inform you that Mdlle. de B has 

had a narrow escape of breaking herself into three 

pieces by a fall ; that Mdlle. E is not such a 

fool as we all thought — that she has a genius for 
high art painting, and even for caricature ; that she 
is a musician to the tips of her toes — that M. 

C continues to swear ; that Madame de B 

has turned dealer in oats, bran, wheat, and hay, 
having discovered, after forty years' mature deli- 

beration, that money is everything. M. de B 

sees no better out of his eyes this year than last. 
Madame Michelin has been confined of a Miche- 
line, whereof M. Michelin is the legal parent. 

We possess a colonel, who is looked on 
as a bottle of the essence of scampishness. 
He was once an opera dancer, who woke up a 
colonel in 1 793, and has continued the same till 
this moment If you will take his word for it, he 
declined his step to a generalship. The wife 
of this colonel is an excellent person ; we saw her 
for about five minutes, and in that time she talked 
a good quarter of an hour. That is how grand- 
mamma came to know that she once kept a grocers 

shop, and sold treacle to little boys and ginger- 
bread to old men- 


The Balzac Household. 

If I unluckily meet old Mother Pelletier 1 and 
say a word to her, I have to stand for three hours 
to learn (what do I say ? — learn ?) — to know what 
I knew before — that she is deaf, that Madame 
Tomkin is Madame Tomkin, that her son is ill, 
and that Pelletier is a gay fellow, &c. &c. 

Louise 2 has health of which one might say 
what Madame du Barry said of the coffee of 
Louis XV. ; Louis 8 clatters about, begins fifty 
things and never finishes one, smokes his pipe, is 
dirty, but withal a very good servant. 

Madame de Balzac has one foot in Paris, the 
other in the country. Papa is immovable as a 
rock. Grandmamma thinks he is very happy to 
have a cold heart and good digestion, and to be 
able to laugh at everything. Papa says that 
grandmamma is a clever actress, who knows the 
value of a walk, of a glance, and how to fall grace- 
fully into an easy chair. 

Henry has grown fifteen inches in four 
months. Honoré does not grow at all, alas ! but 
his reputation grows day by day, as you may 
judge from the following table : — 

1 The housemaid. ' The cook, * The valet 



' L'Héritière de Birague ' sold for . . 800 
'Jean Louis' „ i>3<>o 

' Clotilde de Lusignan ' „ 2,000 

Copies of the first are already offered to the 
rapacity of the good people of Bayeux and 

The author is blown out like a frog with 
thinking that Fame may borrow the likeness of 
Madame Surville and blow her trumpet heartily. 

Dear sister, I am going to work like Henry 
IV7s horse before it was in bronze, and this year 
I hope to earn the twenty thousand francs that 
are to found my fortune. I have to write ' Le 
Vicaire des Ardennes/ ' Le Savant/ l ' Odette de 
Champdivers ' (an historical novel), and ' La 
Famille R'hoone/ besides a heap of little pieces 
for the theatre. 

In a short time Lord R'hoone * will be a man of 
fashion, the most amiable of authors, and ladies 
will love him like the apple of their eye. When 
they see the little Honoré arrive in his carriage, 
holding his head high, with a proud look, his 
chest thrown out — at his approach there will be a 
soft murmur of applause, and they will say, ' It is 

1 Afterwards published tinder the title of Le Sorcier \ it now 
stands as Le Centenaire, 

* * Lord RTioone ' was one of Balzac's noms-de-plume* 


the brother of Madame Surville.' Then men, 
women, and children will leap like hills, and I 
shall have no end of bonnes fortunes. I have 
renounced dowagers, and will only look at 
widows under thirty. Send all those who come 
under your hand to ' Lord R'hoone, Paris.' That 
will be address sufficient ; he is well known at the 

N.B. — They must be rich and amiable. Beauty 
is not so essential. Varnish soon rubs off, but the 
essentials remain. 

Poor Edward has been stopped in the 

grooves of life. He has begun to send his equi- 
pages and jockeys on an embassy to the greatest 
sovereign in the sublunary world — Death. 

Cousin V is up and about again, and 

works more tapestry than ever. His wife is al- 
ways full of gentleness, but hitherto has not been 
able to induce a servant to remain with her ; and 

Cousin R is indefatigable in telling her of 

some she has heard of through Mesdames Lina, 
Cardon, Poirié, &c. &c, known or unknown, living 
with Madame C D H . 

Cousin Victorine has been three times to 
dine with us, and each time it was always a fort- 
night since she had eaten anything whatever. I 
have been to visit Madame D . She is always 


lovely and attractive. And M. D is always ill ; 

he is never well except in Normandy. I found 
her dressed like an angel, with always the same 
charming figure, insipid face, and languishing 
eyes. She reproached me for not having been to 
see her for so long. We talked of Platonic love 
and then of other love, and she invited me to her 
Friday evening receptions. Her salon is adorned 
with two large portraits : on one side is that of 

M. D in an attitude mensongère \ on the 

other is that of Madame D , not in the least 

like her, playing on the piano. It is a pity 
that one cannot hear it. This portrait is the 
tenth that A know of. Shall I ever know the 
original ? 

How can I have the heart to write all this 
nonsense to you when we are in so much 
trouble ? 

Well, may not one laugh in the extremity of 
misfortune as one does in the extreme of prospe- 
rity ? To mock everything, like Democritus, is not 
that the true philosophy — that which best suits 
France, which is always laughter-loving ? Alas ! 
when I reflect that nothing can avert misfortune, 
and that it is foolish to weep over a misfortune 
before it comes — well then I cannot help enlisting 
under the banner of Roger Bontemps. 


Fretting over troubles beats down all energy, 
gaiety revives and increases it. 

Adieu, dear little sister. Give a hearty grip 
of the hand to Surville. Praise ' L'Héritière de 
Birague/ and do your best to ensure a great de- 
mand for the work in Caen and Bayeux. 

To Madame Surville. 

Villeparisis : Tuesday Evening, 1822. 

Dear, good little Sister, — I love you very much, 
and you deserve it all ; but will you tell me why 
you only write to me little mouthfuls of letters, 
which seem to me no more than a strawberry in 
the throat of a wolf ? 

You will receive shortly a copy of 'Jean 
Louis/ I send it to you only on one condition, 
which is, that you swear by your great gods not 
to lend it to a living soul, not even to show it, 
in order that the sale may not be injured. But 
you may praise it much. I have not sent you 
1 Birague/ because it is dirty rubbish. 

You will find some funny things in 'Jean 
Louis/ and types of character, but the plot 
is a detestable plot. The sole merit, my dear, 
of these two novels is the thousand francs they 
bring me ; but this sum is only to be paid by bills 


at long dates. Will they ever be paid ? I begin 
by degrees to feel and to know my own powers. 
To feel what I am worth, and to sacrifice the first 
bloom of my ideas to such unutterable stuff, is 
heart-breaking ! 

Ah, if I had my loaf I would soon mak&a 
place for myself, and I would write some books 
which perchance might live. My ideas change so 
much that the work itself will change soon. 

Yet a little while and there will be between 
the myself of to-day and the myself of to-morrow 
all the difference that there is between the youth of 
twenty and the man of thirty. I meditate ; my 
thoughts mature ; I recognise the fact that Nature 
treated me well when she bestowed on me the 
heart and head which I possess. 

Have faith in me, my dear sister, for I have 
need of some one to believe in me. I do not 
despair of becoming something one of these days. 
I see now that ' Cromwell ' had not the merit of 
being even an embryo. As to my novels, they are 
not worth the Devil ; they are not even good 

You ask me to promise to come to see you at 
Bayeux instead of going to Touraine. Doubtless 
I should much prefer it ; but it remains to be 
seen whether I can travel at all, and this seems 


very doubtful in the midst of all the things I have 
undertaken. However, of one thing you may feel 
sure — that if I make a journey at all it shall be to 

You are very fortunate, vous autres, to have 
mamma in a portrait and in the original besides. 

I have no news to tell you, neither political 

nor any other. This last fortnight has passed as 

if all the days had been one. But, my dear sister, 

I think that when one has one's mother the 

letters of a good-for-nothing brother cannot be 

very interesting ; so I hasten to conclude this by 
assuring you that I always love you very much, 

though it has been somewhat less since you have 


possessed our mother. 

Farewell. Keep in good health, and think 
sometimes of us. To-day it is I who am com- 
missioned to convey the kind remembrances of 
the Villeparisian trio. Farewell, naughty one, you 
who write to me so sparingly, who keep mamma 
to yourself and who say nothing — farewell and 
love. . . . 


To Madame Surville. 

Viileparisis : August 14, 1822, Morning. 

Laura, little Laura, — With the same energy 
you put forth when writing to Madame Delannoy, 1 
1 Smother Montargis ! ' do I now write, Send me 
the MS. of the ' Vicaire des Ardennes ' ! 

Mark me. You know in what a state of pecu- 
niary embarrassment I made my arrival in Paris. 
No sooner alighted than I was laid hold of by 
Citizen Pollet, who would not loose his hold till I 
had signed a contract binding me to supply him 
with two novels between this and October 1 . The 
first is ' Le Savant/ the second ' Le Vicaire/ 
They are to go to press conjointly, and the fellow 
has given me two thousand francs — six hundred 
cash and the rest in bills at eight months, the 
whole distributed according to the date of delivery 
of each volume. Only a thousand copies will be 
printed of the two novels, and I only sell one 
edition. Taking into count the dates of the bills 
and the ready money, this is twice as much as 
I got for ' Clotilde/ 

1 An old friend of the Balzac family, who frequently came to 
the aid of Honoré, and to whom he dedicated La Recherche de 


Accordingly, we have the month of September 
in which to finish ' Le Vicaire/ I think it will not 
be possible for us to write each of us two chapters 
a day, so that I might have ' Le Vicaire ' by Sep- 
tember; even then I should only have a fort- 
night in which to recast it. Consider this. 

I hope you will see, little Laura, that the in- 
fernal need of gold has caused me to sacrifice our 
project of doing ' Le Vicaire ' together. But, on 
the other hand, I have made an advantageous 
stroke, inasmuch as you are sure of selling your own 
novels to Pollet. As soon as I receive the manu- 
script of * Le Vicaire ' I will send you the plot of 
a novel clearly set forth, and I think the parent 
stock of its ramifications will be an idea suggested 
to me by Laura. If you have any pity for me you 
will send me that devil of a ' Vicaire ; ' and if you 
suspect deceit I will send you the Pollet con- 
tract stipulating a forfeit if the ' Vicaire ' is not 
printed by the month of November. 

There is the more need of promptitude as 
Auguste Ricard is doing a ' Vicaire,' and mine 
must be out six months before his. Luckily these 
works cost but little labour in the planning ; it is 
but heading the chapters and filling up the pages. 

Such a grinding task, Laura, would be an 
impossibility for you. I do not think you could 


do sixty pages of novel-writing in a day. How- 
ever, if you can — if you can answer for it that you 
will send the novel by September 1 5 — go on. But, 
seeing there's that dog of a forfeit if I have not the 
manuscript ready on September 1 7, I shall set to 
work, and you know that for a Pollet one can 
write a novel in a month. 

Now the atrocious deed is done. I began 
with self-interest — odious, filthy, abominable self- 
interest. I drop this and leave you to the im- 
pulses of your own generosity. I have told all. 
Now judge, and, although you are an interested 
party, your decision shall be final. In any case, 
if you resolve to send the manuscript, despatch it 
by the diligence, with the address, ' Villeparisis, on 
the road to Metz,' and let the parcel be securely 
packed and tightly fastened with string, that this 
famous ' Vicar ' may not be lost on the way. 

I shall then send you the plan of a novel about 
the ruin of a great house by a small enemy. 

I was very well received at Villeparisis. 
Mamma had not read your letter. She was in 
Paris. I stayed till Monday morning, working 
away like a negro slave, for ' Le Savant ' is in the 
press, and I am correcting as it proceeds. Every 
minute is to me as precious as gold. 

I have nothing to write about the household. 


All goes on as usual ; the present resembles the 

Heaven forgive me ! I was nearly forgetting 
to thank you for your touching hospitality ; but I 
swear to you that my heart is half the day upon 
that sacred ottoman on which I used to lie at my 
length in those short pantaloons, without stock- 
ings, and without cravat ! 

Heaven ! earth ! ocean ! oh, sacrilege ! oh, abo- 
mination ! oh, calamity ! scourge ! pestilence ! I 
have left at your house my knife, the dear knife 
that never leaves me ! Mamma declares I have 
also left a dinner napkin with a red border, also a 
pocket-handkerchief. You will make all this right. 
I have not yet had time to go to the address M. 
Varin gave me. I have been over head and ears 
in business. For the next week I shall be trotting 
all over Paris like a post-horse about my news- 
paper articles. If Surville goes to Caen let him 
ask everywhere for 'Clotilde;' the poor aban- 
doned creature sticks on the shelf. My soul 
is at rest on money matters ; but I am grilling 
in respect of delivering my volumes by fixed 

I have read the beginning of ' Wann Chlore.' * 
It pleased them at Villeparisis. Papa is well. He 

1 Now called Jane la Pâle. 
VOL. I. N 


nearly choked me with laughter just now with his 
queer sayings. 

Grandmamma is enjoying a nervous attack; 
mamma is very well. Grandmamma insists she 
ought to have had two shirts sent her to make, and 
this morning began the one I brought. 

Sum total : if you have in you a spark of pity, 
of high-mindedness, you will send me ' Le Vicaire/ 
for a penalty of a thousand francs terrifies me. 

I am jumping from twig to branch ; my head 
is full, and the possibility of my earning now at 
once my bread for next year bewilders my brain. 

Farewell. I embrace you with all my heart, 
and will write to you full details in a fortnight, 
when I shall have recovered from my Parisian 

To Madame Surville. 

"l Paris : August 20, 1822. 

Dear Sister, — You have got me into a great 
mess. Auguste is doing a 'Vicaire/ as I told you. 
Mine is sold. Pollet is waiting from day to day 
for its despatch, as what is done of it must go to 
press. I shall write it as they go on printing it 

Therefore, by all that is dear to you, and if you 
have any care for the interests, glory, or self-love 
of your brother, directly you receive this letter 


send off the manuscript by the diligence. Wrap 
it in two or three sheets of brown paper, cover 
them with oil- cloth, and address it to 4 M. Honoré 
de Balzac, Villeparisis, on the road to Metz.' 
Declare the contents to be papers — anything you 

Three times have I been to the coach office 
to find out if you had despatched anything. I am 
on burning coals. Just now I am in Paris, but 
I go back to-morrow to Villeparisis. I came 
about the newspapers, &c. 

I have seen Laurentia. She is quite well. 

I had forgotten M. Varin's letter of introduc- 
tion, and I have not yet been able to see his 
brother. But I return in September to give in 
the end of ' Le Vîcaire des Ardennes ' and of ' Le 
Centenaire/ and to touch my money. 

I really hardly know what I am writing, for 
my head is padded with business matters, and 
from this time to six weeks hence I shall not have a 
chance of writing a line. . I have to give in ' Wann 
Chlore' by October to Hubert; I must write 
1 Le Vicaire ' as they go on printing it, and correct 
the proofs of ' Le Savant ; ' besides which, I have 
to give lessons to my brother and young de Berny. 
So you may judge. 

Ask M. Varin, if he writes to his brother, to 

N 2 


be kind enough to say I have been too busy to 

stir out, that three works of mine are being printed 

at once, and that I cannot call on him for some 
weeks to come. 

Look well after the newspapers. They made 
me pay two francs each for the missing numbers. 
You may now feel sure that, however abominably 
bad your novel may be, I am certain it will be 
sold. I will send you the plan, and advise you to 
work at it promptly, for the sooner it is done the 
better price it will fetch. There is a dearth of 
novels. I repeat again, Send ' Le Vicaire ' by 
return of post. Auguste has not begun, but he 
is likely to beat me in speed. 

I send you once more a harvest of thanks for 
your hospitality ; and there is something I had for- 
gotten which must be set right, but on September 
i I shall draught the deed. 

I have bought a superb Lavater, which I am 
having bound. 

If you want anything apply to me. 

I embrace Surville with all my heart, and your- 
self also as much as I can without mutual injury, 
and as soon as I have a moment to spare I will 
write a long letter, closely written, with all the 
news of the family. 

I have seen the diorama ; Surville need draw 


no more perspectives. Daguerre and Bouton 
have astonished all Paris. A thousand problems are 
solved now, that whilst standing before a cloth 
stretched on a frame, you can believe yourself 
inside a church, within a hundred yards of all you 
see. It is one of the marvels of the age, a conquest 
by man for which I was altogether unprepared. 

That rascal Daguerre has achieved a huzzy of 
an invention, by which he will pocket a good 
share of the money of these Parisian rascals. 
And so tell 'your tale. 

Farewell. I embrace you. 

' Le Vicaire ! ' ' Le Vicaire ! ' ' Le Vicaire ! ' • Le 
Vicaire ! ' by return of post ; for I am going to 
work at it I shall begin the second volume. Good- 
bye once more. 


Your hand in mine — you and I, and nobody 
by. Send me ' Le Vicaire ! ' 


To M. Godart, jun. } Engraver, Alençon. 

Paris : April 19, 1825. 

Sir, — I have communicated to M. Urbain 
Canel the agreement which we signed together 
last Sunday, and you will find his ratification en- 
closed. To-day I have shown his ratification, 
hereunto annexed. I have shown your engravings 


this very day to M. Deveria, 1 who was very pleased 
with them and congratulated us on having found 
so competent a translator of his designs. He told 
me it was impossible he could give you any advice 
with regard to the engravings I showed him, be- 
cause he is unacquainted with the original design, 
but he feels certain that if you go on working you 

will be, by the time you have done two or three of 

our engravings, the most formidable antagonist of 
Thompson and the English engravers. 

As soon as you return the blocks of Molière 2 
which you were to receive from Delongchamps, 8 
M. Deveria will lose no time in communicating 
his remarks, for he will enlist your talent with all 
the more pleasure that you are a Frenchman. 

It is beyond a doubt, therefore, that you will 
give the benefit of your labours to our editions of 
La Fontaine, of Racine, and of Corneille, and we 
shall rejoice to be the first to give you a helping 

You may all the more safely begin to work 

1 The connection of Balzac with Deveria, which originated thus, 
led to a long and firm friendship. Honorine was dedicated to 

8 This was when Balzac went into his publishing speculation 
in 1825, which failed through inexperience. To extricate himself 
from his precarious position he undertook the publication of the 
Classic French Authors, but abandoned the undertaking after 
issuing a one volume edition of Molière and de Fontaine. 

* A Paris publisher. 


upon the vignette for Molière as M. Deveria will 
not be able to let us have any blocks for the La 
Fontaine before this day week. You have, there- 
fore, some ten days before you for work. But, 
dating from the 27th of this month, we shall send 
you plenty of drawings. 

You can prepare some score of blocks exactly 
similar to that which Delongchamps will have 
sent you, and despatch them to us together with 
the vignette of the Molière when it is engraved. 

I know not how you have got the Delong- 
champs skein out of its tangle, but I left him in a 
state of great anxiety after I had informed him 
of our agreement. You may be assured that M. 
Urbain and I will never oppose your working 
for the Molière, since we are interested in it ; but 
we wish to reserve to ourselves the right of giving 
to one vignette precedence over others ; so I hope 
Delongchamps will not have frightened you. 

Accept, sir, the assurance of all the esteem and 
consideration with which ' I have the honour to 
be your very humble and very obedient servant. 

P.S. — Pray present my compliments to your 
father, whom M. Urbain is willing to employ as 
a correspondent. You will shortly receive books 
with the drawings. Have perseverance and 
courage, and you will acquire fame and profit. 


To Madame Surville % Versailles. 

X Paris : 1827. 

My dear Laura, — Your letter has occasioned 
me two detestable days and two detestable nights. 
I chewed the cud of my defence point by point, like 
Mirabeau's memoir to his father. I was getting 
in a blaze over the task, but I give up writing it 
out. I have not the time, my sister, and, besides, 
I do not feel myself to blame. 

I am reproached with the fitting up of my 
room; but the furniture in it belonged to me 
before my catastrophe. I did not buy a single 
article. Those hangings of blue calico, about 
which there has been so much fuss, were in my 
room at the printing office. Latouche and myself 
nailed them up to cover a hideous paper, which 
in any case must have been changed. My books 
are the tools I work with; I cannot sell them. 
The taste which harmonises everything in my 
room is not to be bought for money (unfortu- 
nately for rich people). Moreover, I set so little 
store upon these things that if one of my creditors 
were to have me secretly put into Sainte-Pélagie 
I should be happier there; I should live for 
nothing, and I should not be any more a pri- 


soner there than I am kept captive here by hard 

The postage of a letter or the fare of an 
omnibus are expenses that I dare not allow 
myself, and I seldom go out for fear of wearing out 
my clothes. Is this plain speaking or is it not ? 
Do not, then, urge me to journeys, to visits, 
to undertakings, which are impossible for me ; 
nor forget that I have only time and labour for 
my capital, and that I have nothing wherewith to 
provide against the most trifling expenses. 

If you would also remember that I am always 
obliged to be pen in hand, you would not have 
the heart to exact more correspondence from me. 
To write when ones brain is weary and one's 
soul filled with anxieties ! I should only afflict 
you, and to what end ? Cannot you understand 
that before I sit down to work I have sometimes 
seven or eight business letters to answer ? 

There is still a fortnight's more work over 
' Les Chouans.' Until then you will hear nothing of 
Honoré ; you might as well interrupt the metal 
founder in the midst of his casting. 

Do not think I am in the wrong, dear sister : if 
you gave me this idea I should lose my head. If 
my father should fall ill you would let me know, 
would you not ? You know that in such a case no 


human consideration would prevent me going to 

I must earn my living, dear sister, without ask- 
ing anything from anyone. I must live that I may 
work, and pay all I owe to everybody. When my 
' Chouans ' are finished I will bring the book to 
you ; but I do not want to hear a word said about 
it, either good or bad. Relatives and friends 
are incapable of judging an author rightly.- 
Thanks, dear champion, whose generous voice 
defends me. Shall I live long enough to pay 
the debts of my heart, as well as my other debts ? 

To Madame Zulma Carraud} St. Cyr 

{Seine- et- Oise), 

l Paris : Saturday Morning, 1828. 

Madam, — It is with regret that I find myself 
starting on a rather long journey without having 
been able to call and thank you for your amiable 
letter and for all the kindness you have shown me. 
Scarcely even have I time to take leave of you by 
letter; but I hope, madam, that you will shew in- 

1 Madame Carraud, a native of Touraine, was a friend from 
childhood of Laura de Balzac, and through this tie she was deeply 
devoted to Balzac La Maison Nucingen is dedicated to her. Her 
husband, M. le Commandant Carraud, was in 1830 and 1831 
instructor of the military school at St. Cyr. He was subsequently 
inspector of the powder magazines at Angoulême. 


dulgence towards and excuse a poet whose mode 
of action is thus capricious. I am going away to 
work. Should you go down to Berry, write me a 
word to Tours, poste restante, and in the month 
of July or August I shall return by Issoudun. All 
roads, as you know, lead to Paris. 

Be good enough, madam, to recall me to the 
remembrance of the gentlemen of your family, and 
make my kind compliments to them. 

If I do not return by Issoudun I shall at any 
rate return by St. Cyr. 

Adieu, madam, and be assured that my re- 
membrance of you will not fade amidst all the 
impressions I go to seek. 

Accept my respectful homage. 

To the Duchess d Abranth} Versailles. 

Villeparisis : July 22, 1828. . 

Madam, — The letter which my sister was to 
send you is the only one I have received from M. 
Dillon. If he has not written to you, find fault 
with him, and not with your poor courier. How- 
ever careless I may seem, I have not yet come to 
the pitch of strewing the road with papers that 
you confided to me as most important In spite 

1 La Femme abandonnée is dedicated to her. 


of your wish to be angry pray take me once more 
into your good graces ; try never to scold me with- 
out good cause, and I will not accuse you of suscep- 

What idea had you of my discretion when 
you so sternly ordered me to keep to myself the 
translation of Casti and Inez ? I swear to you I 
know better than anybody the requirements and 
modesty of authors, and I am not a man to tear 
away that veil with which you cover your 
writings, like those florists who throw a gauze 
over their wreaths whilst they are being made. 
Now I want to ask you why you did not tell the 
story of Inez as it really happened ? Why did you 
put an icy old man between your feelings and the 
truth ? No doubt you know Sterne by heart ; do 
you remember the story of Maria ? To my mind 
the introduction of a third person in this old man 
destroys the charm, especially in a story pro- 
fessing to be told by one person to the ear of 
another ; it is a case in which the ' I ' cannot fail to be 
graceful. Did we not agree one day that what 
is natural is what alone ought to be prized ? and 
has not La Fontaine sketched the duties of 
travellers in those lines where one pigeon says 
to the other — 

J'étais là ; telle chose m'avint ; 
Vous y croirez être vous-même ? 


As to turning things into ridicule, I admire 
the good faith with which people talk and write ; 
what an ebb and flow of contrary opinions are 
continually balancing each other. 

You have done me the honour to believe that 
I have some distinction of intellect, that I am one 
of those people who, without being marked out 
for high destinies, nevertheless know how to raise 
themselves above meaner things, and that I am 
not one of those fools who, when the rain or the 
fine weather, the heat, jockeys, actresses, the 
fashions, and gossip are taken away, are like be- 
sieged persons whose provisions are cut off. 
Thank you humbly for this opinion ; I shall not 
tell you whether I am flattered, nor whether it is 
true ; I will only remind you that you wrote it — 
that you are frank, and therefore you must have 
thought it Can you, then, believe that a mind 
whose ideas have some breadth, which gathers 
great affinities, which sees things en masse, is 
likely to descend to ridicule ? Ridicule is the 
coldest of all things in the world ; it always be- 
trays some dryness of heart, and that which is 
great is rarely without what is good also. Besides, 
I will ask you what it is that I should ridicule ? 

Rousseau would have said roughly, ' Why do 
you fancy you will be laughed at ? ' The history 


of Inez is good, but only as an accessory to a 
longer story ; as a tale by itself it would lose all 
force ; it is a flower which is seen to advantage 
only in the midst of a bouquet. 

I ask you once more, who can have told you 
that I was held in flowery chains ? to what fairy 
do I owe your recommendation to go without a 
bourrelet^ leading strings, or nurse ? I can 
assure you, madam, I have a quality for which I 
do not gain credit even from those who think they 
know me best, and that is energy. 

You must, from your own experience, have 
discovered how misfortunes develope in us that 
terrible power of stiffening oneself to breast the 
storm and of preserving a calm and steady aspect 
in adversity. Pardon me if I speak in the first 
person, but you force me to do so, in spite of my 
reluctance. I have acquired the habit of smiling 
at misfortune. 

There is only one occasion when I give way 
to sarcasm, and that is when Fortune torments 
me, which she has never yet ceased to do. I am 
old in suffering, though you would not suspect 
it from my cheerful looks. 

I cannot even say that I have had reverses, for 

1 A cane or whalebone wicker cap, to protect children's heads 
from the furniture when learning to walk. 


I have been always bowed down under one 
terrible weight of care. This may sound like 
exaggeration — an attempt to attract your interest 
— but it is not so. Nothing I could say would 
give you any idea of my life up to the age of 
two-and-twenty. I am surprised that I have no 
enemy to struggle against except Fortune. 

You may question those about me as much as 
you please, but you will obtain no light upon the 
nature of my unhappiness. There are people 
who die, and physicians cannot tell the malady 
which has killed them. 

I have said all this only that you may be 
aware of the hard constraint under which I have 
had to live. The result has been to endow me 
with a savage energy, and a hatred of which you 
can form no idea for whatever seems like a yoke. 

Your habit of command makes a refusal seem 
to you like a great misfortune. Well, I am not talk- 
ing of refusals. There is nothing so philosophical 
in the world as a refusal or contempt that is not 

I am speaking of domination. To live under a 
domination is to me insupportable ; I have refused 
everything in the shape of place because of the 
subordination it entails. Upon this point I am a 
real savage. And it is me whom you imagine 


being led, or of whom people have told you that / 
am led! Nothing could well be more false. 

Once more, madam, as I do not wish to 
speak longer about myself — for it is very irksome 
to me, and it is also very absurd — I will only say 
that you will not be able to come to any conclu- 
sion about me or against me from myself, except 
that I have the most singular character of anyone 
I know. I make a study of myself as I would 
study another. I contain within my five feet four 
inches all possible inconsistencies, all possible con- 

Those who believe me to be vain, spendthrift, 
obstinate, careless, without continuance of ideas, a 
coxcomb, negligent, idle, without application, with- 
out reflection, without steadiness, a gossip, with no 
tact, ill-bred, uncivil, whimsical, uncertain in tem- 
per, would be just as accurate in their estimate as 
those who might say that I am economical, 
modest, courageous, tenacious, energetic, easy in 
manner, industrious, constant, silent, full of tact, 
civil, always cheerful. He who says I am a coward 
is no more in the wrong than he who says I am 
exceedingly courageous. In short, wise or igno- 
rant, full of talents or a fool, I am no longer as- 
tonished at myself. I end by believing that I am an 
instrument to be played upon by circumstances. 


Is this kaleidoscope given, then, by chance to 
the minds of those who attempt to paint the 
human heart and all its affections, so that they may 
by the strength of their own imagination feel what 
they describe ? And is not observation a kind of 
memory which comes to the aid of this quick ima- 
gination ? I begin to think so. However, allow 
me to assure you that no one in this world more 
abhors a yoke — the very yoke you mean in your 
letter — than I do. This is enough about myself. 
I hope, after this confession, you will never make 
me speak of myself again. But about yourself ? 
How is it that you are ill — you, who wear all the 
livery of health ? Plato calls the body that ' other/ 
Then I say I am sorry for the sufferings of your 
1 other ' ; but as regards your mind it must always 
be the same. 

I expect to go soon to Paris ; but, in spite of 
my inclination, it will be next to impossible for me 
to go to Versailles. I have a world of things to 
do. Are there not three of my teeth which must 
come out ! You see we are both in the hands of 
doctors. I know you will be vexed with me, and 
Versailles is only five leagues from Paris ; but I 
can assure you of one thing — that it lies on the 
road from Paris to Tours. 

The rapidity with which I have written has 

vol. 1. O 


obliged me to read over these three pages, and I 
have laughed to see the facility with which we 
furnish arms against ourselves. You will laugh 
at me and at my horror of all that is like sub- 
jection and commands. At least promise me that 
you will only laugh between ourselves ; and if 
you can show me that I am wrong, no one is more 
disposed than myself to quit the path of error. 
Adieu, madam. I hope you will be without 
anxiety about your health when you receive this 
letter, and I beg of you to accept my sincere and 
respectful friendship. 

i To Madame Zulma Carraud. 

Paris : January 1829. 

Madam, — I hope you will not be failing in 
charity towards an unfortunate wretch who is 
working night and day, even to the extremity of 
death. If you come to Paris, you will not forget 
me — will you ? Just imagine : I have twenty 
times taken my hat and gloves to go to St 
Cyr, and as many times I have been stopped by 
business. But, even at the risk of losing a chance 
of getting money, I will come one of these days to 
you — I hope to breathe in quiet near you, far away 
from work and trouble. 

I have heard that you have had a great sorrow, 


and I sympathise with you in it. M. Boyet 1 tells 
me that you have been ill ; therefore I excuse you 
for leaving me without a letter and in ignorance 
of your suffering. 

If you should be coming to Paris, tell me the 
day, in order that I may get my liberty for that 
day. Then if the proofs, if the MS. which must 
be ready, have left me alive, I will come from the 
3rd to the 6th to St. Cyr to pay my late New 
Year's Day visit. 

Recall me to the kind remembrance of the 
gentlemen, and accept this expression of a warm 
friendship and an unchanging gratitude. 

To Madame Surville, Champrosay, near Corbeil 


Château de Sache : 1829. 

What is this that you say, my dear sister — 
that I neglect you, that I do not write to you, when 
there are no less than two letters which I have 
written to you for one little bit of a scrawl you have 
written to me ! It is not, however, I who keep 
count of letters ! 

I should have a great deal to say to you. Only 

1 Auguste Boyet, genre painter, author of La Chine ouverte and 
of La Chitu et les Chinois, one of the first artists to initiate us into 
the mysteries of the Celestial Empire. Auguste Boyet at this time 
lived in the Rue Cassini, near the Observatory, and in the same 
rooms with Balzac. 

O 2 


figure to yourself that M. de Margonne l is leaving 
to-morrow ; and in the wish to send you a little 
letter without cost of postage I have quitted my 
work, and I have not more than one quarter of an 
hour in which to write to papa, mamma, and to 
you. But patience ! As soon as my novel shall 
give me a little respite, I promise, and you may 
depend upon it, that you shall have a long, imper- 
tinent letter, which shall have no end, and one also 
to your husband, to whom I owe an answer, and 
I promise you shall be content In your little 
letter you seem rather low-spirited. Is it that 
Sophie is not well, or is it that she will no longer 
say * ga/ or has she deteriorated from the genti- 
lesse which you foresaw for her in futurum ? I 
might also say that you tell me nothing. If you 
knew how busy I am — plus qiie le légat, as mamma 
says. I have visited all St Lazare, 2 and have seen 
many things that needs doing. 

P.S. — I am at Tours to-day, and am going 
to-night to Madame d'Outremont's Ball — ousque. 

I intend to dance with Eliza B and Clara 

D , who is so small that one could only marry 

her to make her into a breast-pin. Adieu, dear sister. 
A thousand kind regards to your husband. The rest 
shall come in the next number — I swear it to you. 

1 His host at Sache, to whom La Messe d'Athée is dedicated. 
' A farm which Madame de Balzac possessed near Tours. 


To Madame Surville, Champrosay y near Corbeil 


Château de Sache : 1829. 

Ah, Laura, if you only knew how I dote (but 
hush!) on two blue screens embroidered with 
black (hush again !) This is a subject to which, 
amidst all my cares, my thoughts still revert. 
Then I said, • I will confide this longing to my 
sister Laura. When I possess these screens I 
never can do anything bad. Shall I not always 
have before my eyes a remembrance of that so in- 
dulgent sister — so indulgent to her own fancies, so 
severe to mine ?' Just now before my fire I per- 
formed that contractile gesture of the arms and 
hands peculiar to you (and not unlike a flapping 
of wings) when you are pleased with yourself, or 
with a bon-mot or anything you like. Then I 
thought of you, and I said, ' I must write to her 
and tell her I love her, and Surville also/ and 
here it is. A quarter of an hour of my time and 
a kindly thought are well worth four sous ; so off 
with you, Flora, to the box of M. the postmaster. 
A grasp of the hand to the Canal. 1 Tell Madame 
de F — : — that my regard for her is only just 
within the bounds of propriety. As this sweet 

1 M. Surville was busy with a project for a canal that Charles 
X. wished to have made on the chance of a war with England. 


flattery is to be conveyed by post, it ought to 
increase in weight and in quickness as the square 
of the distance increases ; consequently this 
speech may crush her if you repeat it all at once. 
Sister, adieu. 

The designs for the screens may be whatever 
you please ; they might be je ne sais quoi, and I 
should always find them lovely, as they would 
come from my alma soror. 

I reopen my letter, dear sister. You will see 
by the dates that I was writing to you when your 
letter came. I suffer bitterly in being the object 
of perpetual suspicions. I think my letter will 
answer everything. I am unhappy enough. The 
tranquillity of the cloister and peace are necessary 
for me to be able to earn money. When I become 
fortunate, I shall perhaps have justice done me. 
It will then be too late, for I shall not be happy 
till I am dead. Does anyone imagine that to 
revise forty slips and forty proofs, to rewrite a 
manuscript, is child's play ? Do you imagine that 
to get four volumes ready for the press between 
January 15 and February 15 (which is a volume 
a week — and there is one whole one to be written) 
can be done by the stroke of a fairy's wand ? 

Oh, Laura, Laura, the tears come into my eyes ! 
We pass life in giving each other needless pain ; 


when people do not understand each other better, 
distance is a blessing, and coming nearer to each 
other causes bitter pain. 

I return to the screens. Give me my screens ; 
I need more than ever some little pleasure in the 
midst of so many vexations. 

To Madame Zulma Carraud y St. Cyr. 

Paris : April 17, 1829. 

Madam, — Have you sometimes said, ' M. 
Honoré is very tardy in sending me that oblong 
engraving he promised for my glove-box. And my 
screen! And my match-holder! He promises 
much and performs little/ &c. &c ? 

I dare not flatter myself with the reality of 
these reproaches; but, in case you should have 
thought of me, I throw myself on your indulgence 
to forgive my apparent negligence. If you wish 
to dwell in a person's thought continually, employ 
on your commissions those you love ; for I 
tell you there is nothing so eloquent and so tyran- 
nical in the world as the remembrance of some- 
thing you have to do and have not yet done. 

This morning I was by my fireside, busy seal- 
ing letters, and every time I took up a fresh 
match the two dogs you placed beside my pretty 
little piece of furniture barked at me. That was 


for the hundredth time. No, M. Honoré is not 
forgetful, but for this month past he has been 
obliged to finish a work in a hurry to which he 
does not affix his name ; for artists paint pictures 
for a livelihood which they do not sign, and pic- 
tures to make a name which they send to the 
exhibition. That is my case. 

You shall have a screen! I contracted that 
debt with too much pleasure not to feel it a plea- 
sure to discharge it. Moreover, if you take your 
match-holder and your screen down to Frapesle, 1 
among all the pretty things you have taken 
there, it will be a bait to my friendship which I 
shall not be able to resist. To be held in re- 
membrance by a lovely soul is one of my most 
cherished illusions. I am in a lawsuit to obtain 
copies of my book, and so long as the case is un- 
decided I am deprived of the pleasure of sending 
you one, for I do not blush to own I am not rich 
enough to buy it. 

Recall to M. Carrauds remembrance an 
author who is daily becoming more careworn and 
misanthropical, but who remembers that some- 
times he has forgotten his troubles at St. Cyr. 

Present my kind compliments to M. Périollas, 2 

1 A country place of M. Carraud, near Issoudun. 
8 One of the officials at St. Cyr. Pierre Grassou is dedicated to 


and accept for yourself, madam, all that can be 
offered that is sweetest and most sincere in the 
shape of a compliment 

To the Duc/tesse (V Abranth, Versailles. 

Paris : 1829. 

Madam, — It would be very unpleasant for me 
to appear before you conscious of any trans- 
gression. I might excuse my vehemence and 
too great sensibility by alleging, like the orators 
of the Chamber of Deputies, the heat of an extem- 
poraneous effusion, for my answer was written in 
haste and with an innkeeper's pen ; so impatient 
was I to undeceive you. 

Without wishing, like the commentators, to 
find other than is written in the text, I might 
easily reply that because strength extinguishes 
sensibility it is not to be inferred that sensibility 
has no existence, and yet you have answered me 
as though I had said, 'You have no sensibility/ 
which is the grossest insult that can be addressed 
to a woman ; for is it not to strip her with a word 
of all that constitutes a woman, since you only 
exist, live, please, and attract by your sensibility ? 

Let me make a comparison which will put 
my thought in a clear and inoffensive light. 


Voltaire had a prodigious amount of wit, he had 
also genius ; but in the total mass of his mental 
constitution the proportion of wit was greater 
than of genius : whereas, on the other hand, there 
was scarcely any wit about Rousseau and a large 
amount of genius. 

Now, reasoning on the general argument, let 
me tell you that we do not make our own cha- 
racters ; we submit to them from birth, obeying 
the whimsical conformation of our organs (hence it 
has always seemed to me absurd to tax a man of 
genius with pride, or to cry up his modesty). But 
I do not see that one can repudiate as an outrage 
a character so unusual in a woman : it has its 
advantages, its brilliant sparkle, its attractions, 
equally with that which shines only by an ex- 
quisite sensibility. Women, as to character, are 
divided into two great classes, the Isidoras 1 (allow 
me to quote this touching emblem of grace ,and 
submissiveness) and the Staëls, whose masculine 
ideas and bold conceptions, whose strength in 
short is strangely united with all the weaknesses 
of your sex. Clarissa, Richardson's heroine, is a 
young girl in whom natural sensibility is continu- 

1 The heroine of a romance by the Duchesse d'Abrantès, as 
are likewise Belvidera and Bianca Capello, whose names recur 
frequently in these letters. 


ally extinguished by a power which Richardson 
has called virtue. In fact, there are here, 
to my mind, two sensibilities, as there are two 
kinds of grief: the sensibility of that Spanish 
woman whose lover having a duel on his hands 
became his second ; arriving first on the ground, 
and being asked by the other combatant why she 
was there, replied, 'To bury you/ And there is 
the sensibility of Bianca Capello, who abandons 
honours, riches, her native land, her father, her 
religion, all to follow her lover, and, like a second 
I si dora, prepares with her hands the repasts of her 

Do you not think both pictures here presented 
equally fine ? To one temper of mind that of 
the Spanish woman will be more attractive, to 
another Bianca will seem superior. Out of the 
reflections suggested by the whimsicalities that 
are born of sensibility developed in so many ways 
I have formed this axiom for myself: 'Woman is 
never so touching or so beautiful as when she re- 
nounces all empire, and humbles herself before her 
master.' This is telling you that Bianca Capello, 
Isidora, and Mademoiselle are my heroines. 

Do not run away with the idea that I speak 
from fatuity and that sort of feeling, whatever it 
be, which you continually attribute to men; I am 


speaking now as an artist — say, a sculptor, who 
should maintain that the naked figure is more 
beautiful than drapery; for between ourselves I 
confess that Bianca Capello, Belvidera, and all such 
women who prostrate themselves in an attitude 
of perpetual obedience, and watch for a smile, a 
glance, a nascent wish, as flowers await the dew, 
are the women who exercise over us the most 
absolute and complete dominion that ever pos- 
sessed the heart with all the power of one sole 
imperishable sentiment. 

The other character has this incontestable 
attraction, that it is a continual incense to mans 
vanity. What a satisfaction for a man to reign 
over a heart that has never bowed to another! 
to see a proud and terrible creature, who tramples 
under her feet the entire earth, commands all 
that draws the breath of life, and to reign over 
her ! He is a king seated on his throne ; he enjoys, 
in fact, the rapture of Jupiter's mistresses, who 
sported with the brows at whose frown the globe 
trembled; and Henry III. hardly deserved the 
love of that heroine, that fierce and haughty 
one, who beat down beneath her horse's feet 
the nobles who had dared to insult her with 
their sarcasms. 

After these explanations, I think, madam, that 


you will acknowledge my innocence. Permit me 
to believe also that the terrible trials of your 
life have been meted out to you in proportion 
to your strength of character ; that this strength 
is the source of many high and noble thoughts 
on the ever-shifting spectacle in the midst of 
which you have been placed ; that at this moment 
the close seclusion into which you have with- 
drawn yourself is but as the night awaiting the 
dawn of another day. For, indeed, the more I 
have thought upon your destiny and the cha- 
racter of your mind, the more I am convinced 
that you are one of those women privileged 
to prolong their reign beyond the limits of ordi- 
nary nature ; that you have had it in your power 
to do that for a brilliant epoch which Madame 
Roland only attempted to do for a period of 
sorrow and of glory. I know not if ever you 
have felt any of those impetuous impulses that 
spring from the heart and overmaster one at the 
spectacle of the manifold scenes, heroic figures, 
and lofty characters of life, but I wish to believe 
it, for yours seems to me a nature stamped 
with an especial seal. Could it be chance alone 
that launched you on your career through all the 
countries of our time-worn Europe, thrown into 
commotion by a Titan surrounded with demi-gods ? 


This, madam, was my thought concerning 
yourself, but which I had not the leisure to 
express while I was at Tours ; and let me add, 
that I have given expression to my feelings, 
and they are sincere. I may be mistaken, but as 
regards your merits I can deduct nothing, add 
nothing. There is in my nature a headlong 
frankness, which is very like that of Mdlle. 
Josephine ; I am too indifferent to be circumspect, 
too impulsive to lie. The friendship you deign 
to offer me, madam, is a chimera I still pursue, 
in the teeth of the frequent disappointments I 
have encountered. From my boyhood at school 
I have sought not for friends, but a friend. I am 
of La Fontaine's opinion, and I have never yet 
found what a romantic and exacting imagination 
pictures to me in such fascinating colours. The 
phenomenon of friendship has always been ex- 
plained in my eyes by a physical analogy ; two 
beings must have sufficient time to attach them- 
selves to each other by accidental conditions of 
the soul, like those insects which in spinning 
their webs will not fix a thread until they have 
made a separate journey to explore the ground for 
each thread, and even then return several times to 
the spot ; but there are also, I am fain to believe, 
certain souls who feel and appreciate each other 


at once. Your proposal, madam, is so delightful, 
so flattering, that I am not likely to withhold my 

, To M. Alphonse Levavasseur, Publisher^ Paris. 


Paris : November 1829. 

My poor, unhappy Publisher, — The loveliest 
girl in the world can give but what she has. I 
work all day long at ' La Physiologie du Mariage ; ' 
I only give six hours of the night (from nine till 
two) to the ' Scènes de la Vie privée/ of which I 
have to correct the proofs ; and my conscience is 

I am quite ready to send the copy required to 
finish up by the 15th, if you wish ; but it would be 
the most atrocious murder that we — you, Canet, 
and myself — ever yet committed on a book. 

There is a something in me — I don't know what 
it is — which prevents me from doing wrong con- 
sciously. The question is whether to bring out a 
book which shall live — to make waste paper of it, 
or a work for the library shelf — whether this blotted 
paper shall be sold for seven francs per ream or 
for fifty. 

If I were an idler, drew up advertisements, 
mended old shoes, played billiards, ate and drank, 
&c, well and good ; but I have never a thought, 


never stir a step, which is not for the € Physiologie/ 
I dream of it ; I do nothing else ; I am stricken 
with it. I can understand your commercial im- 
patience, for mine is tenfold. 

The copy lies on my desk, but I am brought 
to a halt continually by some story to be told, 
by some new idea to be worked out, by — by — in 
fact, I might run on till to-morrow telling you how 
the author of this work is for ever hovering at 
each line between success and the gallows. I 
have never yet so thoroughly realised how import- 
ant a work this is. I was thinking of a book to 
amuse people, when one morning you walk in 
and ask me to do in three months what it took 
Brillat-Savarin ten years to accomplish. He had 
to deal only with godailleries, whereas I have to 
deal with the most important question in France. 
He had a new subject; mine is the most hack- 

There is one miracle of which I will boast : it 
is that the first volume of ' La Physiologie ' l has 
been entirely re-cast into its present shape between 
September i and November 10, 1829 ; for on the 
10th the Ite, missa est, will be pronounced. 

Don't imagine that this letter is a mere excuse. 
I am working with ardour and as continuously as 

1 La Physiologie du Manage. 


any living soul can work ; but I am only the 
humble servant of the muse, and the hussy has 
her fits of ill temper. 

You need not despair, for on the 15th I will let 
you know frankly what you may reckon upon. 
Not till then shall I have probed the wound to its 
full depth — that is, reached the second volume. 

Tout à vous. 

To Madame Zulma Carraud, St. Cyr. 

Paris : 1830. 

The feeling of repulsion which you experi- 
enced, madam, on reading the first pages of the 
book I brought you does you too much honour, 
and betokens too nice a sense of delicacy, for even 
an author to take offence. It proves that you 
do not belong to a world of falseness and perfidy ; 
that you are ignorant of that portion of society 
which blights everything ; and that you are worthy 
to live in that solitude wherein human nature 
becomes always so great, so noble, and so pure. 

It is, perhaps, unfortunate for the author that 
you should not have resisted the first impulse 
which seizes on every innocent being on hearing 
about crimes — at seeing misfortune described 
— on reading Juvenal, Rabelais, Persius, Boileau 
— for I think that later on you would have. been 

vol. 1. P 


appeased; you would have found certain stern 
lessons, certain vigorous pleadings in defence of 
virtue and of woman. But how can I complain 
of a repugnance which is to your honour — how 
quarrel with you for remaining true to your 
sex ? I therefore humbly beg your pardon for 
this involuntary outrage on your feelings, for 
which, if you remember, I had prepared myself, 
as you may recollect ; and I entreat you to believe 
that however severe the judgment you have pro- 
nounced on this work will in no way lessen or 
alter the sincerity of the friendship which you per- 
mit me to entertain for you ; and I hope you will 
deign to accept the renewed assurance of my re- 
gard, for I assure you that the frank expression of 
the feeling of a friend upon an action which seems 
to be wrong can only serve to draw closer the 
bonds of confidence and esteem. 

To Madame Zulma Carravd, St. Cyr. 

Paris : April 14, 183a 

Madam, — You have indeed been severe. I 
know nothing of what happens at St. Cyr, whether 
lucky or unlucky, so that I have only been able to 
sympathise with you in the vaguest way, and as 
a man may who works night and day to sustain 
his miserable existence. Ink, pens, paper, are a 


horror to me, and everything like an idea gives 
me a shudder. In fact, it was rather your turn to 
write to me. 

Whatever happens, I will come and see you 
this week, in order to bring you the 'Scènes 
de la Vie privée/ which was published yesterday. 
I have to thank you for subscribing to the 
4 Feuilleton/ l I intended every day to come and 
see you ; but you know what Paris is — a heap of 
sand, like those that roll on the shores of the 
Loire. Once step into them, and you cannot escape. 
Yesterday it was a matter of business that de- 
tained me ; to-morrow it will a delightful soirée, 
when Malibran is to sing ; this morning, a bachelor 
breakfast ; in the evening, it will be some pressing 
work. Thus the gulf devours a lifetime which, if it 
were passed in solitude, 'might be full or glorious. 

However, do not think I am so very dissi- 
pated ; I have worked horribly, and my debauches 
take the shape of volumes. In June I hope to 
offer you ' Les Trois Cardianux/ 2 a work which 
possibly will not be unworthy of attention. 

If I have time, I will come early ; and if I 
listened to my inclinations, I should stay at that 
St. Cyr which you find so dull. 

1 Le Feuilleton des Journaux politiques, 

2 Balzac never wrote this work. It was intended to bring in le 
père Joseph, called F Eminence grise, Mazarin, and Dubois. 

P 2 


Accept, madam, the homage of a sincere and 
respectful friendship. 

A thousand compliments to M. Carraud and 
Captain Périollas. 

To Madame Surville, Charnprosay. 

Paris : 1830. 

•I have heard that my dear sister has written 
there might be no such person as Honoré, for all 
Charnprosay knows of him. 

Your scoldings, madam, are now before my 
eyes. I see plainly you require further informa- 
tion respecting this poor delinquent 

Honoré, dear sister, is a wild fellow over head 
and ^ars in debt, without having had a single 
pleasure {bamboche) for the money, and who feels 
sometimes as if he could knock his head against 
the wall, though some persons will not allow that 
he has any head at all. 

He is at this moment a prisoner to his room, 
with a duel on his shoulders : he is bound to slay 
a half-ream of paper, and to transpierce it with 
ink that shall be tolerable enough to bring joy 
and good cheer to his purse. 

This wild fellow has some good in him. He is 
called cold and indifferent. Do not believe a word 


of it, beloved sister. His heart is in the right 
place, and he would be ready still to do anyone a 
good turn, but having no credit with Master Shoe- 
sole (Messer Chaussepied) he is no longer in a 
plight to run about, as of yore, to oblige anyone. 
This is scored up against him as a scandal. 

In the matter of affection he is rich, and 
certain to return twofold all he receives ; but his 
nature is such, that a harsh or offensive word 
wipes all the joy out of his soul, so susceptible is he 
to all that is refined in sentiment. He needs 
friends with hearts which can take life in a grand 
way, who know what true affection is, and who 
do not think it consists in visits, compliments, and 
other foolishness of the like kind. He carries 
oddity so far as to receive a friend whom he has 
not seen for years as though he had called but 

This same wild fellow may forget the harm 
that is done him, the good never ; he would 
write it on brass, were there any in his heart. 

As to what strangers may think or say of him, 
he heeds it as the sand that adheres to his feet. 
He strives to become something, and when one is 
building up a monument one cares litde what 
insolent people may scribble on the hoarding. 

This young man, such as I describe to you, 


loves you, dear sister, and these words will be 
understood by her to whom they are addressed. 

To M. Théodore Dablin, Paris. 

Paris : 1830. 

My dear Dablin, — My sister tells me that 
you still bear a remembrance of some sharp 
expressions which escaped me in the last visit I 
made to you, when I called to. beg you to take a 
guarantee, which I thought necessary in case any 
accident should carry me off. If anyone could 
stand an outbreak of purely artistic anger it is 
certainly an old friend who knew me before 181 7, 
and who came to see me in the Rue Lesdiguières 
when I was suffering my first martyrdom ; but as 
I never hurt anyone in my life, not even an enemy, 
I deeply regret my warmth in this literary dis- 
cussion, since you have remembered my rough 
words so long. 

This sort of irritation proceeds neither from my 
soul nor from my heart ; it is occasioned by the 
state of nervous excitement into which coffee 
throws me when its effects, instead of expending 
themselves on paper, exhaust themselves in air — 
that is to say, when, instead of writing, I go out of 
doors. An old friend of mine, a lady, detected 
this effect of coffee upon me ten years ago ; and 


though I can sometimes control it, there are 
times when, through worry, I am unable to do so. 
You will have thought my friendship doubly 
onerous, whilst all the time I am feeling sorry 
enough that you should be so unequally yoked, 
for up to the present moment it is I who have 
reaped all the advantage. 

You know little of me, my dear Dablin, and if 
you love me you show thereby that a man may 
love a friend as one does a woman, without 
knowing her ; but there would be no misunder- 
standing between us were you to try to know me 
better. A man who for the last fifteen years has 
risen every day in the middle of the night, who 
has never found his days long enough, who is for 
ever struggling against hindrances, can no more go 
and look after his friend than he can go after his 
mistress. For that reason, I have lost many mis- 
tresses and many friends ; but without regret, for 
they could not understand my position. 

This is why you have never seen anything 
of me, except when business brought me. I am 
sorry that you did not answer my question as to 
the Insurance, for the longer I live the more my 
work accumulates, and I cannot be sure that I 
shall hold up under unremitting toil. At this 
moment two months' travelling in Belgium or 


elsewhere would refresh my hot, over-taxed brain, 
and give me back the strength to set to work 
afresh ; and I have neither the time nor the money 
for it. It is now five years since I took a journey, 
and to travel is the only relaxation I care about. 
I foresee that my destiny will be unfortunate : it 
will be that I shall die on the very eve of the day 
when all my desires would be realised. 

This is why I am anxious that you, my mother, 
and Madame Delannoy should be protected from 
loss, for you three stand first in my intentions. 
M. Ga vault 1 is another, by reason of the services 
he renders me, with a devotedness which makes 
my heart his debtor, as it is with you and Madame 
Delannoy. I certainly have the hope of free and 
happy days, which death only can frustrate. This 
is why my exhaustion, combined with the necessity 
for work, frightens me. I should be more tranquil 
if my true friends were guaranteed against an 
event which would be sad to them alone. 

To M. Victor Ratter, Editor of l La Silhouette, 9 


La Grenadière : July 21, 1830. 

First of all, let me tell you that on seeing your 
letter I fancied I caught sight of you in the act of 

1 M. P. S. Gavault, avocat, at Paris. Les Paysans is dedicated 
to him. 


opening my study door, so completely did you 
take the form of remorse. 

Oh ! if you only knew what sort of a country 
is this Touraine ! It makes you forget everything. 
I quite pardon the inhabitants for being stupid ; 
they are so happy. Now, of course, you know 
that people who are very happy are always dull. I 
have come to look at glory, the Chamber of Depu- 
ties, politics, the future of literature, as though they 
were so many poisoned balls for the extinction of 
wandering and homeless dogs, and I say to myself, 
'Virtue, happiness, life, mean an income of six 
hundred francs a year on the banks of the Loire.' 

Do come down here for three days. Travel by 
Caillard's diligence, on the impériale ; it will cost 
you thirty francs there and back (ten francs a day). 
And you will have given your approval to my 
editorial labours in twenty-four hours, if you set 
your foot in my house — La Grenadière, near 
Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire, a house situated half-way up 
a hill, close to a delightful stream, covered with 
flowers — honeysuckles — and whence I gaze upon 
landscapes a thousand times more beautiful than 
any those rascals of travellers stupefy their readers 
by describing. Touraine has on me the effect of 
a pâté de foie gras in which one is up to the chin, 
and its delicious wine, instead of making you tipsy, 


makes you stupid and happy. Accordingly, I 
have hired a cottage here until November, for 
when I shut my shutters I can work, and I do not 
intend to behold that luxurious Paris again till 
I have laid in a good stock of literary work. 

Fancy, moreover, that I have made the most 
poetical journey that can possibly be made in 
France, which is to go from hence to the other 
end of Brittany, down to the sea, by water — not 
dear, three or four sous a league — passing along 
the most smiling shores in the world ; I felt my 
thoughts grow wider with the stream, which ap- 
proaching the sea becomes immense. Oh ! to live 
like a Mohican ! — to run over the rocks ! swim in 
the sea ! to breathe full draughts of air and sun- 
shine ! Oh, how I could feel with the savage ! 
Oh, how thoroughly I realised the corsair's, the 
adventurer's, lives of opposition. As I stood there I 
said to myself, ' Life is courage and plenty of good 
rifles, the art of steering over the wide seas and 
a hatred of men (Englishmen, for instance)/ Oh, 
for thirty lusty fellows all of the same mind, and 
to trample down prejudices like M. Kernock ! 

Back again here, without money, the ex-corsair 
has become a dealer in ideas and turned his mind to 
fishing up his gudgeons for sale. Imagine nowa man 
—this vagabondiser {vagabondant) — who beginning 


with an article entitled ' Traité de la Vie élégante/ 
ends by writing a volume in octavo, which ' La 
Mode ' is going to print and some bookseller to 
republish. This comic and killing undertaking 
has held me in a vice ever since I wrote to M. 
Varaigne. 1 My companion, who is going away for 
twelve days or a fortnight, will take this letter to 
Paris, and about a third of the volume, and you 
will tell me, with your rare and precious frankness, 
whether the book is worthy of me. As to ' La 
Vie de Château,' Emile has committed a positive 
murder by inserting it. It was the rough sketch 
of an article thrown off on the edge of the table, 
and I had here an article on the same subject, 
conscientiously written, when I saw the treacherous 
trick of ' La Mode ! ' If you could find me a subject 
as suggestive as ' La Vie élégante ' for ' La 
Silhouette,' and allow me time enough to let it 
settle and clear in my mind, you should see — oh ! 
oh ! oh ! 

Your ' Silhouette ' does well with the ' Carica- 
tures for the Week.' The idea is a happy one. 
But you are ruining the undertaking by giving bad 
caricatures. It is a good notion to make up the 
number with an explanation of the lithographs 

1 Victor Varaigne, joint editor of the Feuilleton des Journaux 


and the article ' Caricatures of the Week/ You 
ought have an article done by some witty man on 
the events of the day, like that in c Le Journal 
Rose/ but taking up different facts, and with it a 
special article on the fine arts — a criticism of 
some picture, book, engraving, &c. This would 
give you an excellent form of making up, and 
you ought never to depart from it (a friendly piece 
of advice). You know that a good counsel is as 
good as an eye in your hand, and costs nothing. 
A good counsel is an idea, and an idea is a 
fortune. Come and spend three or four days 
here. We shall be as free as a couple of Iroquois 
Indians living in the same wigwam and sharing 
the same game. I have a slave here like my 
Flora in Paris. By the way, your ' Esclaves du 
Sérail ' are mighty stupid. Tell the man who 
comments on the caricature that to write funny 
things to make one laugh they must rest on a 
foundation of truth. 

And my philosopher has just written his sharp 
epigrams for a journal ! Pro h pudor ! It seems 
to me that the ocean, a brig and an English ship 
to demolish, though one should go the bottom for 
it, is something worthier than a writing desk, a 
pen, and the Rue Saint- Denis. 


Farewell, dear Ratier ; and since we have, or 
believe we have, both of us hearts that beat 
warmly, let us give each other a grip of the hand. 

My respects to Madame Ratier. 

Ah, how I regret not having some comrade 
with me who could develope all the ideas that 
crowd my brain too thickly for me to be able to 
work them out ! 

7!? M. Charles Rabou, Editor of ' La Revue de 


Nemours : Wednesday, May 18, 1831. 

My dear Master, — You really are too bad for 
anything. I asked you quite humbly to tell me 
whether ' L'Auberge Rouge ' will appear à la 
Trinité. You have not answered a word to your 
humble servant 

I am at this moment on horseback upon a 
crime ; I eact, I sleep, in ' L'Auberge Rouge ; ' so 
that I may be able on Monday morning, when I 
dismount, to give the first paragraph to our friend 
Foucault — a pretty little MS. written in the 
country, a copy without erasures, trimmed and re- 
trimmed, and coquettishly corrected. Ah ! ah ! I 
would not disappoint my friend Gosselin, and 
give a stab with a penknife to his ' Peau de 
Chagrin ' — not for his Majesty Frederick William. 


Have the great goodness to write one little line 
to ' M. Balzac, at Nemours, Seine-et-Marne, 
bureau restant' just to tell me whether it is 'yes ' 
or ' no/ 

I know well, wretch of an editor, that you 
will say * yes ' at all hazards, and be sure to put 
me off from Sunday to Sunday like a fête which 
the Pope is puzzled where to place in the 

But I beseech you {te imprecor), by the manes 
of, I know not whom, not to play on my romance- 
writing credulity, but to tell me true — if ever the 
manager of marionettes could tell the truth. 

If you were a friend. 

If you were a true friend you would be so 
good-natured as to make a little research I require 
for ' L'Auberge Rouge ' — namely, to find out 
in what month, what year, and under what Re- 
publican general the French penetrated, at the 
commencement of the Revolution, into Germany 
to Dusseldorf or farther, and what corps it was. 

I am here without one poor book, alone in a 
garden-house at the farthest end of the grounds, 
dwelling with my ' Peau de Chagrin,' which, 
thank God, is coming to a finish. I work night 
and day, taking nothing but coffee. And so I find 
it a needful relief from my regular work to work 
at ' L'Auberge Rouge.' 


To Madame Zulma Carraud, St. Cyr. 

Good heavens! madam, I have done you 
wrong, for I confess I have not yet found a 
moment's leisure to read the manuscript of our 
dear Lieutenant Duparc, which you sent me, and 
I know as well as you do how necessary it is that 
it should be well published. 1 

The manuscript in question lies on my table, 
enforcing with mute eloquence the reproaches of 
my own conscience. 

Meanwhile the book trade is not as yet suffi- 
ciently tranquillised to afford a good opportunity of 
getting this translation published. I am not so 
very guilty, then, after all. Some time must yet 
elapse before I can busy myself about it actively, 
effectually, and usefully. 

My days and nights have been taken up by 
extra work, and I tell you everything when I 
confess that I have not written a line of ' La Peau 
de Chagrin* since I wrote those few pages at 
St. Cyr. 

The political labours imposed on me by my 
duties as a candidate standing for two arrondisse- 
ments 2 absorb all my attention. I have to carry on 

1 This refers to a German translation by a poor officer in the 
army who had served with M. Carraud. 

2 At the elections to fill vacant seats in the Chamber in 1831 


at once my literary occupations, which, as you 
know, are my livelihood, and my political studies, 
so that sometimes I break down. Besides all this, 
I am now forced to make some sacrifices to society, 
and I go out into the world much oftener than I 
desire. But as for you, you have not written me 
one wretched line, not a word to console and 
sustain me, in the overwhelming struggle which 
threatens to swallow me alive. Though I may not 
write to them, I do not think of my friends the 

By this time you ought to have received three 
copies of my pamphlet. 

Think not, madam, I can ever forget my 
friends at St Cyr; but from the time I last 
saw you I have done nothing but write, ru- 
minate, and run about. I am almost ill with it, 
and I am going to spend a fortnight in the coun- • 
try to tranquillise my mind and finish that unfor- 
tunate book, which seems as if it would never 
come to an end. Present my kind compliments to 
Captain Périollas and to M. Carraud ; remember 
me to my partner at backgammon ; and deign to 
accept the expression of my respectful friendship, 
as of my deep devotion. 

Balzac put himself forward as a candidate both in Angoulême and 


You cannot imagine the scene of commotion 
into which your article has fallen. Véron sends the 
1 Revue ' to the Devil, as a man throws down the 
ladder by which he has climbed to the top of a wall. 

This poor ' Revue ' has fallen into the hands 
of M. Rabou. Véron promised this latter should 
come to see me. I went to interrupt Véron in 
the midst of a rehearsal by Paganini, to speak to 
him about the * Prestige/ l He remembered nothing 
whatever about you,— the barbarian. — When I told 
Véron (whom I entreated to use his influence with 
Rabou) about the commercial interest I have in 
you (as you will see further on), he smiled, and I 
augur well from his grimace. 

I will engage that you shall see and read your 
own article very speedily in ' La Revue/ and that 
you shall have a letter from Rabou, or I am a 
fool. For the rest, you will soon see with what 
fidelity I have devoted myself to your affairs. 
What you said to me about Cambrai has inspired 
me with the idea of offering myself as a candidate. 
Ouf ! there ! it is out now ! I have said it. Now 
you will say, ' The vile flatterer ! ' Between two 
journalists aWjinesse is, I think, thrown away, and 

1 A novel by Henri Berthoud, who was at that time editor of the 
Gazette de Cambrai, and who wished to become assistant editor of 
La Revue de Paris. 

VOL. I. Q 


the contract which I sign with you now, is an 
undertaking I do not misunderstand. I begin by 
doing you as much good service here as will make it 
worth your while to assist me in the other matter. 

With respect to what concerns yourself, I beg 
you to have an article ready wherein you put out 
every stitch of canvas. I tell you in confidence, 
though without making the sign of the Cross, 
that you should round your thoughts and your 
periods, impart an indefinable polish to your 
phrases, balance short sentences with others of a 
more Ciceronian measure, &c, and bring both 
poetry and observation to bear upon some new 

You will know six weeks hence why I ask you 
to have this ready. 

Now, as to myself, inform me what style of 
political address would best serve me as a can- 
didate at Cambrai. The forthcoming Assembly 
may probably be very stormy ; it is big with a 
revolution. Possibly the people of your arron- 
dissement may wish to see a Parisian playing 
the game there, rather than one of their own 
body ; a town always likes to see itself represented 
by an orator, and if I enter the Assembly, it is 
with the intention of playing a part in politics, 
and to give the benefit of it to those who have 


adopted me as a fellow-countryman, and at whose 
hands I shall have received the political baptism 
of election. All my friends in Paris, right or 
wrong, build considerable hopes upon me. I 
shall have for supporters you, if you embrace 
my idea, ' La Revue de Paris,' € Le Temps/ ' Les 
Débats/ ' Le Voleur/ a small journal, and what- 
ever I may be able to do myself betwixt now 
and then. 

I expect from you the same confidence I have 
shown in you. You see that with you I burn my 

To M. Charles Gosselin, Publisher and 
Bookseller, Paris. 

Paris : July 1831. 

My dear Gosselin, — I promised to settle Le- 
vavasseurs account to-day. Would you have the 
kindness to remit by the bearer of this a bill at 
three months for two hundred and fifty francs ? 

I told you at the time what difficulty I should 
have in negotiating bills ; but with this I can pay 
a debt, and it will be a matter of indifference to 
you whether you give it me to-day or twenty 
days hence, as it does not in reality anticipate the 

Your nephew will have told you that I have 

Q 2 


shut myself up in the house, and I shall not leave 
it until ' La Peau de Chagrin ' is finished. I have 
well prepared the way for its success. Madame 
Récamier has insisted on having a reading of it 
in her salon, so that we shall have an immense 
number of partisans in the Faubourg Saint-Ger- 

You would do well to put an advertisement in 
the papers for the provincial librarians, that they 
may send you their orders beforehard. You may 
safely announce it for the 25th ; we shall come up 
to time, or very nearly. 

Tout à vous. 

And a thousand compliments to Madame 
Gosselin. . 

To the Duchesse (TAbranth, Versailles. 

Paris : July 1831. 

We never thought of the fêtes for July 27, 28, 
and 29. It will be impossible for me to have 
the pleasure of dining with you ; I am in requisi- 
tion for the fireworks, the concert, and the donna. 
You understand, and will forgive me. 

You owe me another day, but it must be before 
Saturday, for I am going into the country for a 

A thousand friendly things. 


Tuesday, if you will. I shall have a letter to 
hand to Mdlle. Joséphine. 1 

To the Duchesse d y Abrantès. 

Paris : 1 83 1. 

Pardon me for sending you your money thus 
clumsily, but the printers slips might make me 
forget my debt ! Only one thing they cannot 
disturb in my memory, and that is our delicious 
soirée and all your gracious kindness to me. the 
flavour of which dwells in my heart still. 

A thousand sweet and tender things. And let 
Sister Joséphine remember me in her orisons — me 
who remember her amidst my musty books. 

Homage and devoted friendship. 

To Charles de Bernard? Besançon. 

Sir, — Let me thank you cordially for the 
promptitude with which you have spoken of my 
book. 8 A critic of the ' Journal des Débats ' sent 
me your article. I was agreeably surprised to find 
my intention so happily understood — a piece of 
good fortune rare enough in Paris. The analysis 

1 Mlle. Joséphine Junot, who hadfor some years been a sœur 
de charité. 

3 The novelist, author of Le Gendre, on which the play of Still 
Waters run Deep is founded. 

* La Peau de Chagrin, reviewed in a feuilleton of La Gazette 
de France, in 1831, by Charles de Bernard, its founder. 


of my book is given with marvellous skill and 
rapidity, without any straining after wit at the 
authors expense — a mark of good taste on the part 
of the critic on which I congratulate you. No one 
desires more than myself to see organs of opinion 
established in every province ; and the votes of the 
departments are a great power in the present day 
for conscientious authors. They direct them. I 
am dealing so frankly with you that you will 
allow me, I know, to mention a thought which 
has struck me. You are, perhaps, too hasty in 
charging the rising literature of the day with an 
attempt to imitate the masterpieces of foreign 
authors. Do you think that the fantastique of 
Hoffmann is not to be found in ' Micromégas/ 
who already existed in Cyrano de Bergerac, where 
Voltaire found him ? Subjects, and the method of 
treating them, are open to all the world, and the 
Germans have no more the monopoly of the moon 
than we have of the sun, or Scotland of the fogs 
of Ossian. Who dares to flatter himself that he 
has invented anything ? I was not inspired with 
my idea by Hoffmann, with whom I was un- 
acquainted until after I had thought out my own 
work; but there is something in this that goes 
deeper. We fail in patriotism, and we are under- 
mining our nationality and our literary supremacy. 


by thus demolishing one another. Did the English 
critics ever say that 'Parisina* was taken from 
Racine s ' Phèdre ' ? and do they go about flinging 
foreign literature at the heads of authors to stifle 
their own ? No, they do not. Let us imitate 
them. I am glad, sir, to have a subject which has 
put me in correspondence with you. I wish every 
success to your honourable and excellent under- 
taking, and I beg you to accept the expression of 
the great respect and regard with which I have 
the honour to be your devoted servant. 

To the Duchesse d'Abrantès> Versailles \ 

Paris : 1 83 1. 

Madam, — M. Mame will have the honour to 
wait upon you this evening at eight precisely. I 
have, as we agreed the day before yesterday, laid 
down the terms of the contract : — three thousand 
francs a volume for two thousand five hundred 
copies ; withdrawal of the bargain for ' L' Amirante ; ,l 
full security for the printer and for yourself; pay- 
ment in cash, on delivery of each volume ; finally, 
complete protection of your interests. I shall be 
highly pleased to see you come to a settlement, as 
you will thus spare yourself a host of troubles. 

1 L } A mirante de Cas tille, a romance by Madame d'Abrantès. 


Had I been able to leave the house, I should, 
with all the devotion I profess towards you, have 
made a point of being present at this discussion ; but 
though M. Mame can battle tooth and nail, you 
will find him a very amiable man in all that does 
not concern a publisher's bargain. 

To the Duchesse dAbrantès. 

Paris : 1831. 

Rabou has your article. You will receive the 
proofs in two or three days, and you will then read 
it more at your ease. You have won success. 
Rabou thinks the article is even better than I told 
him it was. I am so grieved that you should 
suffer thus ! 

I thank you a thousand times for your coffee ; 
it is delicious. I shall come and spend a whole 
evening with you — the very first I have to spare. 

I am greatly busied to complete one of my 

A thousand affectionate things and devoted 

To the Duchesse d'Abrantès. 

Paris : 1831. 

Then M. Mame, from whom I heard of your 
illness, never told you I am confined to bed ? 


But you knew it ! You were not told either that 
I have been to see you several times, and that the 
answer was that you received no visitors ? I then 
sent to enquire for news of you, when I could hear 
none from Marne. 

Now I shall come and see you as soon as I 
have got through the work for which the aforesaid 
Mame is waiting in agony. 

No, never have any doubts of me. We shall 
meet soon. I am glad to have your note, as it 
informs me that you are out of danger. 

Sincere friendship. 

To the Duchesse d'Abrantès. 

Paris : Thursday 1831. 

I got home in the most miserable manner. I 
waited half an hour at the gates of Versailles, and 
then I saw a wretched coucou appear above the 
horizon, it could only convey me as far as Sèvres. 
At Sèvres I hoped to meet with another coucou, 
and I wended my way towards Paris by the 
glimpses of those lovely and magnificent stars you 
were contemplating, and, like you, I rejoiced in 
that awful silence which fills the soul. But I had 
to walk on ! At last, just as I reached Auteuil 
— and there I thought of the mysterious pavilion — 
at last I heard the delightful rumble of another 


coucou, which landed me at midnight upon the 
Place Louis XV. ; and, in the absence of any 
carriage, I had to make the best of my own two 
feet to reach my lodgings. As I got into my bed 
I said to myself, that the extra quarter of an hour 
passed under your window was a compensation 
for all my tribulations ; and as I fell asleep, about 
half-past two in the morning, I flattered myself 
that there was this shadowy resemblance between 
us, that you were perhaps sleeping also. And you 
write to tell me that you were ill. . . . 

They have just brought me in your last letter. 
I will not speak of it. That which has just come has 
touched me to the heart. You say you are ill and 
suffering, and without any hope that finer weather 
will do you any good. Remember that for the soul 
there arises every day a fresh spring-time and a 
beautiful fresh morning. Your past life has no 
words to express it in any language, but it is scarcely 
a recollection, and you cannot judge of what your 
future life will be by that which is past. How 
many have begun to lead a fresh, lovely, and 
peaceful life at a much more advanced age than 
yours! We exist only in our souls. You cannot 
be sure that your soul has come to its highest 
development, nor whether you receive the breath 
of life through all your pores, nor whether as yet 


you see with all your eyes. Plants and flowers 
have their gradations, and what numbers of stems 
in the forests have never seen the sun ! 

To the Duchess cT A branles, Versailles. 

Paris : 183 1. 

You are mistaken with regard to me. I went 
to see you ; you were in the country. 

There is one fact which rules over my exist- 
ence, and that is work — work continued without 
relaxation, an incessant toil continued for fifteen 
or sixteen hours a day. In the grip of such a 
hydra nothing is possible. Friendships that are 
feeble must perish ; they require Bugeaud's peck 
ôf oats to keep them alive. Strong friendships 
can live without, and I have depended upon yours. 
As for writing letters, I cannot ; my weariness is 
too great. You are not aware of how much I 
owed in 1828; I had only my pen to depend on 
for my livelihood, and for the means of paying off 
one hundred and twenty thousand francs. In a 
few months I shall have paid everything. I shall 
have realised money ; I shall have arranged my 
poor little homestead. But for the next six months 
I must endure all the miseries of poverty ; I am 
now draining the last dregs of my anxieties. I 
have asked help from no one. I have never held 



out my hand to beg either for a page of work or 
a farthing of money. I have hidden my troubles, 
my sores. But you, who know from experience 
whether it is easy to earn money by one's pen, 
you, with the penetrating insight of a woman, will 
see the depth of that abyss which I now reveal to 
you, and along the edge of which I have walked 
hitherto without falling into it There are still 
six months before me, which will be very hard ; 
and if even Napoleon grew weary of warfare, I 
may venture to confess that the struggle with 
misfortune begins to tax my endurance. I am a 
poor working man, whom you must come to see 
or be content to take him when he comes out for 
a Sunday holiday. No one in the world knows 
the cost of my visits. I do not say this from 
pride ; to a sincere friend I can say these things 
with the full trust that we shall not be angry with 
each other. What can be grander or more honour- 
able than to make a name, to build up a fortune, 
by the exercise of ones intellect ? This only ex- 
cites envy, and I have little pity for the envious. 

Do not believe any evil of me : say to your- 
self, ' He is working night and day ;' and wonder 
only at one thing — that you have not yet heard 
of my death. I am going to digest my dinner at 
the Opéra or at the Italiens. These form my sole 
diversion, because there I need neither think nor 


talk ; I have only to look and to listen. Even 
there I only go occasionally. 

To the Duchesse de Castries, Paris. 

Paris : October 5, 1831. 

Madam, — Your letter was sent after me into 
Touraine when I was no longer there ; and, as I 
and my correspondence crossed each other on the 
road, it only reached me very late, so that only 
to-day have I been able to read your letter. Do 
not accuse me, therefore, either of negligence or 
foppery ; you load me with so many crimes that I 
may well take up my defence against a charge 
involving what would certainly be a crime — that of 
acting discourteously towards a lady, even though 
a stranger to me. 

Allow me to have now the privilege of speak- 
ing frankly, whilst replying to your frank attack, 
and deign to accept my sincere thanks for the 
subtle flattery of your complaints, since they show 
that my writings have made a strong impression 
on your mind. You have placed me under the 
unfortunate necessity of speaking of myself, which 
is an embarrassment, as I am addressing a woman 
of whose age and position I am ignorant. 1 

1 Balzac was entirely unacquainted with the name of his corre- 
spondent. Balzac afterwards dedicated L'Illustre Gaudissart to 
Madame de Castries. 


The ' Physiologie du Mariage/ madam, was a 
work undertaken for the purpose of defending the 
cause of women. I knew that if, with the view of 
inculcating ideas favourable to their emancipation 
and to a broad and thorough system of education 
for them, I had gone to work in a blundering way, 
and betrayed my design at the outset, I should at 
the best have been regarded as nothing more than 
the author of a theory more or less plausible. I 
was therefore obliged to clothe my ideas, to dis- 
guise them under a new shape, in biting, incisive 
words, that should lay hold on the mind of my 
readers, awaken their attention, and leave behind 
reflections upon which they might meditate. 

Thus, then, any woman who has passed 
through the storms of life would see that I at- 
tribute the blame of all the faults committed by 
the wives entirely to their husbands. It is, in 
fact, a plenary absolution. 

Besides this, I plead for the natural and in- 
alienable rights of woman. A happy marriage is 
impossible unless there be a perfect acquaintance 
between the two before marriage — a knowledge 
of each other's ways, habits, and character. And 
I have not flinched from any of the consequences 
involved in this principle. 

Those who know me are aware that I have 


been faithful to this opinion ever since I reached 
the age of reason ; and in my eyes a young girl 
who has committed a fault deserves more interest 
than she who remaining ignorant lies open to the 
misfortunes of the future. I am at this present 
time a bachelor, and if I should marry later in 
life it will only be to a widow. 

Now you see, madam, that my first crime has 
become transformed into a courageous endeavour, 
which deserved to have some encouragement ; but, 
like a soldier in the advanced guard of a system 
which has yet to make its way, I have met the 
fate of those who fall in leading the forlorn hope. 

I have been wrongly judged, misunderstood ; 
some have seen only the outward form, others have 
seen nothing at all. After ' La Physiologie,' I 
wrote ' Les Scènes de la Vie privée/ In this book, 
full of moral and wise counsels, nothing is de- 
stroyed, nothing is attacked ; I respect accepted 
creeds, even those in which I have no faith. I am 
simply an historian, a narrator, and virtue has never 
been more reverenced than in these scenes. Now, 
madam, one word about ' La Peau de Chagrin/ 
That work is not intended to stand alone; it 
contains — excuse the pedantry of the term — the 
premisses of a work which I shall feel proud to have 
undertaken, even though I should fail in the at- 


tempt ; and, since your kindliness towards me is so 
great— xfor your solicitude has deeply touched me — 
read the second edition, under the title of ' Romans 
et Contes philosophiques.' I have made some 
progress in my plan. One of the best writers l of 
our time has condescended to lift the veil which 
conceals my inner thoughts and future plans in an 
Introduction. You will there see that if at times I 
am destructive, I also endeavour to rebuild. ' Jésus- 
Christ en Flandre/ 'L'Enfant maudit/ 'Etude 
de Femme/ ' Les Proscrits/ ' Les deux Rêves/ 
will prove to you, perhaps, that I am not destitute 
of faith, nor of conviction, nor of gentleness. I 
plough my furrow conscientiously. I strive to be 
the servant of my subject, and to accomplish my 
task with courage and perseverance ; that is all. 
' La Peau de Chagrin ' was meant to show forth 
the present age — our lives, our egotism. The re- 
production of these social types has been mis- 
understood ; but I find, madam, my own consola- 
tion for this in the sincere approbation conveyed 
in criticisms like your own, given in friendship 
and sincerity. Do not think that your letter, full 
of the touching elegies natural to the female heart, 
is to me a matter of indifference. These sym- 
pathies, coming from afar, are a treasure ; they are 

1 Philarète Chasles. 


all the fortune I possess ; they are the purest plea- 
sures I can taste. And perhaps the feelings you 
have made me experience would have been even 
stronger than they are, if, instead of taking up the 
conventional picture in my book of the woman 
celebrated for having never loved, you had given 
your sympathy to her who consecrates the beauti- 
ful devotedness of woman, her artless love and 
the rich poetry of her heart. 

Pauline is a real personage for me, only more 
lovely than I could describe her. If I have made 
her a dream, it is because I did not wish my secret 
to be discovered. 

Pardon me, madam, for seeking to re-estab- 
lish myself in your good opinion, but you have 
placed me in a false and unsuitable position ; you 
have formed your idea of me from my books ; 
and from what am I to judge of you ? All I 
possess of yours is a letter — a criminal indict- 
ment You have made yourself my judge, and I 
could only reply by a justification in form. But, 
whatever you may think of this letter, let me hope 
that at some future time we may correspond about 
a work which I trust will make those chords 
vibrate in your soul which I have now left mute. 
This would be a great triumph for me — the only 
triumph to which I aspire — for you are mistaken if 

vol. 1. R 


you suppose me anything but a solitary man, who 
lives in his own thoughts and ardently desiring 
to be understood by women. 

P.S. — Pressing work has not permitted me to 
reply to you in a leisurely way. In reading over 
my letter, I perceive that it might have been made 
much better — that I ought to have said something 
quite different. I ought to have thanked you for 
the interest you express for me, which will remain 
one of the most touching episodes of my literary 
life ; but if I send this letter such as it is, it is 
only to prove to you how little my real character, 
in its natural want of all artifice, resembles the idea 
which my works give of me to many people. 

To Madame Laure Surville, Champrosay. 

Sache : November 23, 1831. 

My good Sister, — I send you a letter which 
Madame Carraud has enclosed for you in mine, 
which gives me the pleasure of writing to you also. 
There are times when it makes one so happy to 
take refuge in a heart which has been one's own 
from infancy! I am already beginning to look 
backwards. To-day I am depressed, without too 
well knowing wherefore. I fancied that there must 
have been something sympathetic in my depression, 
and that some one of those I love was unhappy. 


I should like to be reassured on this point, and 
to know how things are with you and yours. I 
would like to hear whether my dear Surville is 
successful, if you are all well in body and soul, and 
whether you have had any news of Henry. 

My mother has written me a little scrap of a 
letter about nothing at all ; it was as short as a 
letter of administration. As for me, I have not 
the time to write as I would wish. If people only 
knew what it is to give a permanent form to one's 
ideas, to give them shape and colour, and what 
lassitude it leaves behind — to be always thinking, 
like La Fontaine under his tree ! If only the result 
could be La Fontaine ! But no, it is only some 
of Balzac ; will that ever be worth anything ? 

How this doubt torments me on my dark 
days ! — much more than my condition of a bird 
hopping from branch to branch, I can assure you. 
And is it not very melancholy, after so many very 
heavy labours, to have earned as yet nothing for 
the future — to have nothing but the future itself ? 

Laura, what will that future be ? 

Who can answer this question, so full of 
anxiety ? My whole fortune up to this present 
time consists in the possession of a few true and 
devoted attachments, but the expressions of those 
attachments are not all alike. If there are some 

r 2 


persons by whom I am never misunderstood, 
there are others with whom I am less fortunate. 
You belong to the first class, my dear, my most 
dear, sister. 

Note. — Balzac, in the midst of the pecuniary 
difficulties and embarrassments by which he was 
troubled from the very commencement of his 
career, had at least the great happiness of find- 
ing encouragements, counsels, and not unfrequently 
inspirations, not % only in his noble sister, but 
also from other women who possessed intel- 
lect of a high order. Madame de Berny, who 
stood foremost amongst these friends, was early 
removed by death from the affectionate gratitude 
of her young friend. 

M. and Madame de Berny * lived at Villeparisis 
when the De Balzac family resided there ; after- 
wards they established themselves at St.-Firmin, 
a small town in the Department of l'Oise. 

To M. Urbain Cartel \ Publisher and Editor, Paris. 

Sache : November 25, 1831. 

My dear Canel, — I have already written to 
Rabou about the two volumes, and to-day I am 
sending off to him a tale belonging to the second 

1 Madame Firmiani is dedicated to M. Alexandre de Berny. 


volume. But, my dear sir, send me at once — 
immediately, a proof of the ' Dôme des Invalides/ 
In return for the said proof, you will receive ' Le 
Départ * for your Carlist book ; but I only give this 
on the express condition that it is placed the first 
in the volume. So, on receipt of this letter, put 
under a Post Office band the proof of the ' Dôme/ 

As to the gloves, for which I am endeavour- 
ing to pay you by * Le Départ/ remit them for me 
to the care of Madame de Berny, as in my house 
everything is dessus dessous. They will be quite safe 
there, because there are glove-boxes to put them 
in; and these gloves are all the more precious 
as they come from a publisher, under which 
name there lies hidden for me that of a friend. 

Rabou will tell you all about my distress, and 
I will tell you no more than you will hear from 
him, for you well know that, feeling as I do that 
your purse is like my own, I only apply to you 
because I cannot help myself. 

The fact is, I am neglecting the ' Revue ' for 
the ' Contes bruns/ l and that a few days hence my 
rightful share in these volumes will be finished ; 
and without vanity I may say I have endeavoured 
to give you my best I wish the book to be a 
great success. 

1 An anonymous work, written in concert with Philarète Chasles 
and Charles Rabou. 


Send me Barbier directly. He and Lamartine 
are the only true poets of our epoch. Hugo has 
only lucid intervals. 

A thousand amiable speeches to the ' miss' 
Go to the elegant Chasles, and give him my re- 
membrances with, all that grace which is your 

Adieu. I wish you all prosperity. 

7!? Baron Gérard, Paris. 

Paris : 1831. 

I think, Monsieur, I have already sent you a 
copy of ' La Peau de Chagrin ; ' but as the idea 
upon which I am constructing my work is begin- 
ning to develop itself, I do not wish you to have 
the first row of bricks before I can give you the 
second ; you would therefore do me a great favour 
if you would put the preceding volumes on your 
chimney-piece, so that they may be torn up or 
burned page by page. 

Present my hommages to Madame Gérard ; 
and will you say to Mdlle. Godefroy, that I will 
make an appointment with her for some day, 
when we may recall together the memory of my 
poor and much-loved father. 

If I had known the other day that you were 
disengaged, I should with great pleasure have 


cheated you out of a lesson in good and instruc- 
tive conversation ; for if I love you as much as 
anyone else can love you, I admire you more 
than all others put together can admire you. 

To Madame la Duchesse de Castries, Paris. 

Paris : February 28, 1832. 

Deign to accept, madam, my affectionate 
thanks and the expression of my profound grati- 
tude for the mark of confidence you have been 
pleased to bestow. 1 

It is so rare to meet noble hearts and true 
friendships; I especially am so destitute of in- 
fluential friends on whom I may rely, that I accept 
your gracious offer, although at the risk of losing 
much by becoming personally known. 

If I were not engaged in pressing work, I 
should before now have presented my horn- 
mages to you with that frankness of heart 
which is so much prized by you ; but, after many 
struggles and honourable misfortunes — misfor- 
tunes of which one is proud— I have yet to 
toil on a little longer before I can conquer a 
few pleasant leisure hours, wherein I may be 
neither a literary man nor an artist, but may be 

1 Apparently the Duchess had revealed her name, in reply to the 
letter Balzac had written to her as an unknown correspondent 


myself \ and it would be these hours I would 
desire to consecrate to you, if you permit it. 

You are fortunate, madam, to be able to em- 
bellish your solitude by poetry without labour; 
my solitude is filled by labour without poetry. I 
hope to become better in your society ; and I know 
well that I can only be a gainer in the society 
of a soul so noble and so richly endowed as your 

Soon then, madam, I trust to be allowed to 
lay at your feet a homage as friendly as it is re- 

To Madame Emile de Girardin, Paris. 

Paris : 1832. 

My dear Pupil, — Do not make game of your 
poor master, who knows nothing except by theory. 
It is said, in I know not what droll story, that a 
ton of melancholy is not worth an ounce of good 
cheer. Well, the thousands of tons of pleasure 
that we may gather in the fields of society will 
not pay our bills at the end of the month. Ergo, 
the master is a slave, and, as he has no expecta- 
tions except from himself, the poor master must 
work; and he is always in bed at six o'clock, 
just at the moment when you are kindling into 
life and lighting the wax candles in your elegant 


Cage, which you brighten by the glitter of your 
wit, where poetry flashes and lightens ; then half 
an hour after midnight he rises to work for twelve 
hours, while you are reposing after swaying lazily 
to and fro on an ocean of bright pretty dreams. 
Ecco ! 

Judge if it does not seem hard ; for, after all, 
I have only one pupil. Nobody comes to con- 
sole me, ' En la Cabane où le coton me couvre ; ' 
and when one sees nobody, when one hears 
of nothing, the things we call glory and reputation 
are only like beating the air. I am like a child 
who has forgotten to put peas into his bladder for 
the Carnival time, and finds it gives forth no sound 
when he belabours the passers-by. I thank you, 
therefore, much for your kind letter and your dear 
thought of me. 

A thousand gracious compliments to Madame 
O'Donnell, my homage to Madame Gay, my 
friendly regards to Emile, and to you a thousand 
affectionate obeisances. 


To Madame la Duchesse d'Aôrantès, Versailles. 

Paris : 1832. 

Do not be angry with me, I entreat you. I 
was so much over-fatigued with work, that I fell 
down at the Opéra as I got out of the carriage. 
Since my return I have begun to write again, and 
I do not move from my table. 

As soon as I have one moment's liberty I will 
devote two to you, but all this week I am nailed 
to my place by proofs. If I did right I ought 
to write an article for the ' Revue ' for the two last 
Sundays of the month ; a work for Mame ; and 
the second dozen of the ' Drolatiques ; ' without 
counting reprints. Is not that enough to keep 
three or four men well employed ? Accept the 
hommages, the affection, the thousand tendernesses, 
of your devoted servant, who would gladly be 
free in order to taste the world of goodness you 
promise so graciously. 

To M. le Baron Gérard, Paris. 

Paris : 1832. 

Sir, — I saw yesterday an artist whose fame 
has not yet reached France, although he possesses 
a great deal of talent ; I mean M. Gros-Claude, 
of Geneva. He wishes, under the influence of 


that fervour which your talent inspires, to show you 
the pictures he is about to exhibit at the Musée. 
I was bold enough to make free with your benevo- 
lence, and he is to come and bring them to you 
between twelve and one to-day, for the term rigor- 
ously fixed for their reception expires to-môrrow. 
He will ask nothing of you, beyond your opinion 
and that of Mademoiselle Godefroy. He is a great 
friend of Schnetz, and professes the same admira- 
tion for you that we all have. 1 

I intended to introduce him to you on Wed- 
nesday, unless he should enjoy the more agreeable 
chance of receiving at your hands those rights of 
citizenship which you have the art of rendering so 
precious by that grace and wit which, for my part, 
1 envy every time I have the pleasure of passing 
an evening in your society. 

Vouchsafe to accept the homage of my sincere 

To M. Laurentie, Principal Editor of the 
1 Rénovateur ' Paris. 

Paris : 1832. 

Dear Sir, — M. Peyronnet's article has so 
scared me by its talent that I felt the necessity of 
working up considerably my article on the oath ; 

1 M. Gros-Claude exhibited in Paris on several occasions in 
the early part of Louis Philippe's reign. His Buveurs was en- 
graved, and obtained considerable popularity. 


it will be equally opportune next week. The 
Duke l will have made up his mind about being a 
candidate, and we shall be better able to judge of 
the article and its propriety in family conclave. 
But I have done ' La Vie d'une Femme.' I beg 
you will not put any signature ; it would be 
ostentatious ; but mention it, if you will, in the 
chronicle of events. The article was so illegibly 
scrawled, that it is being recopied. It will be at 
the printer's at half-past ten. 
A thousand compliments. 

To Madame Emile de Girardin, Paris. 

Paris : May 1832. 

For the last two days I have been cased in 
flannel and wrapped in a dressing-gown, seeing that 
I am ill. I was so already on Tuesday evening. 
I have given myself that swelling in the face 
you had on your hand. 2 I am in for three more 
days of suffering and agony ; but it is not the cho- 
lera, and no one can say, ' M. de Balzac has the 
cholera ; we are going to lose him.' My malady 
is an ignoble one — an abscess, which must run its 
prescribed course. 

A thousand thanks for your amiable remem- 

1 The Duc de Fitzjames. The article was never written. 

* Madame de Girardin had hurt her hand by a carriage accident 


brance ; but I should have wished for a line from 
your hand as to the state of your hand, for which 
I am responsible. Devoted friendship to all your 
belongings and to yourself. 

To M. Chapelain, Physician, Paris. 

Paris : May 1832. 

Sir, — The power of somnambulism attracts 
me. How is it you have not sought out some 
very lucid somnambulist, and set her to grapple 
with the causes of the epidemic ? l Science is 
interested in the discovery. It would redound to 
our eternal honour. If I had not been confined to 
my bed for the last week, and still in a state which 
forbids my going out, I, a theorist, would have 
descended, or rather risen, to the honours of 
practice, and sought for a somnambulist, and have 
endeavoured to convince myself of the nonentity 
or of the mighty power of our discovery, and so 
ascertained whether it is limited or infinite. 

Excuse me, sir, and pardon the curiosity which 
has prompted this letter, attribute it to the 
desire I feel to know whether we are deceiving 
ourselves or not. 

Accept, sir, my affectionate compliments. 

1 The cholera. 


To Madame Emile de Girardin, Paris. 

Paris : May 31, 1832. 

We are both of us, madam, destined to know 
what a tilbury can do. Not far from the spot 
where you were so roughly treated, I came in 
contact with the heroic paving-stones of July. 
This head — this handsome head — in short, the 
head vou know— has suffered in the most un- 
happy manner, and I am by no means sure that 
some screw or wheel has not been loosened in my 
brain. Joking apart, I am in my bed I have 
been copiously bled, for the first time in my life. 
I have been ordered not to write, not even to 
think — to remain perfectly quiet — and here is your 
letter just come to awaken all the graceful and 
mondaines ideas which always either precede or fol- 
low you. You have recalled all the delights of idol- 
worship, and even a debt which I ought to have 
paid on the very evening of my tumble ; but, as I 
hope not to die just yet, I shall have the happiness 
of seeing you as soon as I can go out, and I regret 
extremely not being able to attend the celebration 
of this delightful anniversary, by coming to your 
soirée, where, in spite of all you say, I should have 
seen nothing except yourself. 

A thousand affectionate respects. 


To Madame Zultna Carraud, Parts. 

Paris : June 1, 1832. 

Madam, — I delayed writing to you till I 
could send you at the same time the ' Contes 
drolatiques ' and the ' Scènes de la Vie privée,' 
but meanwhile I tumbled out of a tilbury. I 
escaped death as by a miracle. However, I am 
in bed, bled, dieted, and under the severest pro- 
hibition against writing, reading, or thinking. I 
have seen our good, and great, and beloved 
Captain Périollas. I am afraid he will frighten 
you ; and I write secretly to you, very sorry not 
to have answered you when I was in the country, 
busy finishing my work. 

The egotism of the author killed for the 
moment the egotism of friendship. 

Yet your letter moved me to tears. I should 
like to answer you on all points. I will do so, at 
the risk of increasing the pain I suffer ; for my 
head went on the pavement of July with a pretty 
hard knock, and for twenty minutes I could not 
bring my thoughts together. 

As to politics, be quite sure that I guide 
myself by a severe and high probity, and, in spite 
of the anathema pronounced by M. Carraud against 
all journalists, believe me I shall neither write nor 


act, except by conviction. My political life and 
creed cannot be appreciated in a moment If I 
ever count for anything in the government of the 
country, it is later that I must be judged. I fear 
nothing. I care more for the esteem of a few 
persons, amongst whom you are one of the first, 
both in friendship and in high intellect— one of the 
noblest souls I have ever known — than I can care 
for the esteem of the masses, for whom I have, 
in truth, a profound contempt There are some 
vocations which must be obeyed, and something 
drags me irresistibly towards glory and power. It 
is not a happy life. There is in me a worship of 
woman, and a need of loving, which have never 
been completely satisfied. Despairing of ever being 
loved and understood as I desire, by the woman I 
have dreamt of (never having met her, except 
under one form — that of the heart), I have thrown 
myself into the tempestuous region of political 
passions and into the stormy and parching atmo- 
sphere of literary glory. 

It is possible I may fail in both ; but be assured 
that if I have desired to live the life of the present 
century, instead of passing on happy and obscure, 
it is only because pure and moderate happiness 
has failed me. When one has a whole fortune 
to make, it is best to try to make it great and 


illustrious ; for, other things being equal, it is better 
to suffer in a high sphere than in a low one, and I 
prefer the thrusts of a poniard to the pricks of a 
pin. Otherwise, you are quite right in all you say. 
If ever I should find a wife and a fortune, I could 
resign myself very easily to domestic happiness ; 
but where are these things to be found ? Where 
is the family which would have faith in a literary 
fortune ? It would drive me mad to owe my 
fortune to a woman, unless I loved her, or to owe 
it to flatteries ; I am obliged, therefore, to remain 

In the midst of this desert be assured that 
friendships such as yours, and the assurance of 
finding a shelter in a loving heart, are the best 
consolations I can have. Your letter has been 
very precious to me. It has been exactly the 
refreshment needed by my wearied and anxious 
soul, which is rather irritated than tender. My 
strongest desire is still for a life in the country ; 
but it must be with good neighbours and a happy 
home. In whatever country this is to be found, 
there would I go to meet it ; and I would do no 
more v/ork in literature, except as an amateur, 
for the sake of occupation and not to be idle — as 
if one ever could be idle where there are trees to 
look at and to plant ! 

vol. 1. S 


To dedicate myself to the happiness of a 
woman is my constant dream, but I do not believe 
marriage and love can exist in poverty. 

You will not forget to remember me to every- 
body, and you will divine all I ought to say. My 
head and my hand are both fatigued. My mother 
is beside me, and counts every line. 

Find here a thousand tender regards from 
your wholly devoted. 

To Madame Emile de Girardin^ Paris. 

Paris: 1832. 

Imagine me, handsome as I am, cruelly dis. 
figured for eight days past ; and it has seemed 
very odd to be more ugly than I am by nature. 
I only got out yesterday, but you will guess to 
whom the first visit was paid. To-day or to- 
morrow I shall have the happiness to thank you 
for all the gracious friendly things you have 
written to me, and to see you again. 

I have suffered horribly, and now I must 
make up for lost time. I must work for those 
wretched horses of mine, which I cannot teach 
to live on poetry. What a grand use that would 
be for poetry! Ah, a dozen alexandrine lines 
instead of a feed of oats ! Such a discovery 
would beat the steam-engine. 


To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

Sache : June 10, 1832. 

My dear Mother, — I am safely landed, but 
horribly tired. Passengers were asked to show 
their passports wherever there were gendarmes. 1 
To-day I am rested. However, I still feel some 
of my bruises, principally in the left arm ; there 
are certain movements I find it impossible to 
make. But, any rate, I am here, having well got 
over my fatigue. Two days were barely sufficient. 
My papers are put in order ; to-morrow, I begin 
to work. You will send the letter here annexed 
by Paradis. 2 And now mark well all the follow- 
ing instructions : 

1. First of all, copy for me the article headed 
4 L'Épicier ' in the volume of the ' Silhouette/ 
which you will find on the second shelf where 
the quartos are, near the door of my room. 

2. You must send me your copy of the 
1 Contes bruns/ As what I have written there 
will be reprinted in the 'Causeries,' 8 you can't 
set much value on what Chasles and Rabou have 
written. However, you need only tear out of 

1 This was after the insurrections of June 5 and 6, 1832. 

9 A servant 

3 This alludes to a book— Causeries du Soir— which never 
appeared. Le Médecin de Campagne is dedicated to Madame de 

S 2 


your copy the ' Conversation * entre Onze Heures 
et Minuit ' and ' Le Grand d'Espagne/ Madame 
de Berny will let you have some marked-out 
corrections, and perhaps a volume of the ' Chouans/ 
with the corrections to it. Make them all up into 
a parcel> and send them to me at once, with what 
I am going to tell you about. 

You will take a copy of vols. iii. and iv. of 
the ' Scènes de la Vie privée/ and you will write 
outside, ' Presented by the Author to M. de 
Manne ; * then you will go to M. de Manne, and 
you will tell him that I have had a fall, and cannot 
go out. (Make yourself lovely.) And this is 
what you are to ask him. Mark this well : 

You will look first into the large ' Biographie 
universelle' for the Life of Bernard Palissy, 
which is under B or P (you had better even send 
me the volume containing it) ; you will read that 
article and take a note of all the books quoted, 
whether by Palissy himself or written by others 
about him. Take this note — which must be very 
exact — to M. de Manne, and ask him to let you 
have these books for me. 

Go and read likewise the notice of Bernard 
Palissy in papa's ' Biographie/ which is at Laura's, 

1 Le Grand d'Espagne is now inserted in La Muse du Départe- 
ment, and La Conversation entre Onze Heures et Minuit forms 
part of Œuvres Diverses. 


and ascertain if there are not works quoted there 
which may not be in mine. Take a note of 
these, that you may ask M. de Manne for them 

If M. de Manne should not have them all, 
and provided they are not too dear, you will have 
to buy them. You might see Gosselin, and tell 
him that six days after the receipt of these books, 
which I shall look for with impatience, he will 
have the manuscript needed to finish the fourth 
volume of the ' Contes philosophiques/ I require 
them to write a grand and beautiful work com- 
pleting the volume, in which the only thing not 
previously published ought necessarily to be very 
remarkable in its kind. 1 

My horses must, and I mean that they shall 
(tell this to Leclercq), each go out every day for 
half an hour. 

I have three hundred pages of manuscript 
to do — to think them, to write them — for ' La 
Bataille ; ' I have a hundred pages to add to the 
' Conversations/ which, at the rate of ten pages 
a day, is three months' work, and at the rate of 
twenty, forty-five days ; and it is physically impos- 
sible to write more than twenty, and thus I only 

1 This was meant to be La Recherche de ? Absolu. That work, 
however, never came out till 1834 ; Louis Lambert terminated the 
volume instead. 


ask for forty days ; and during those forty days 
I shall have Gosselin s proofs to correct also. 

I only write once a week to Madame de Cas- 
tries and to Madame de Berny ; and then only a 
few words. All I can do is, to give you a letter 
for M. Pichot. 

It was precisely to avoid all affairs, and 
all interruptions, that I came here and am 
going to Angoulême. You can hardly imagine 
how much of my time writing a business letter 
swallows up. To say a week is hardly too much. 
Madame de Berny when at St.-Firmin saw 
what head work meant. It took me ten days to 
invent and think over ' Les Célibataires.' l To 
bear with all the vexations of my professional 
work, and those caused by money difficulties as 
well, is enough to make one quit the world. 

I see no one at Tours. 

To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

Sache : June 1832. 

My dear, beloved Mother, — Your news about 
Henry fills me with joy. M. de Margonne knows 
nothing yet. I will tell him when he comes back 
from town this evening. 

1 This alludes to the first story in Les Célibataires—' Le Curé de 


Good boy ; he has thought of you, and I envy 
him the happiness to be the first to make you 
happier. This has caused me a cruel regret for 
the course I have chosen, as it has not enabled me 
to do my duty towards you. Poor mother ! this 
is an event which will give us both courage. 

On Wednesday I shall take to the coach office 
the MS. of the tale which Gosselin has yet to re- 
ceive ; this is as much as to tell you that I am at 
work day and night, for the MS. will be at least 
sixty folios, and very tired I am of writing. 

1 1 was imperative that I should give a triumph- 
ant refutation to the people who say I am mad. 

To Madame Zulma Carraud> Angoulême. 

Sache : July 2, 1832. 

Dear Friend, — Your letter found me in 
Touraine, where I have taken refuge to finish 
the three works required before I can begin my 
travels. I am only sixty leagues from you ; is it 
not a temptation to me ? If the work were not 
already begun, to which a drop of coffee on this 
page bears witness, I should be already at the 
Poudrerie ; but for the moment I must be con- 
tented to answer you, for amongst all my letters 
yours has been read first. Would you believe it ? 


fame is conveyed to me through the post office 
by means of letters, and I daily receive three or 
four from women. They come from the depths of 
Russia, of Germany, &c. ; I have not had one from 
England. Then there are many letters from young 
people. It has become fatiguing. With what de- 
light I open the letter of an old, true, and known 
friend ! 

Thanks a thousand times, from the depths of 
my soul, for your precious friendship. Your letter 
came at the moment of a little spleen, which was 
caused by the sad prospect of a probable over- 
throw of the little fortune that I have gained by 
the strokes of my pen. Decidedly we must wait 
for peace before we attempt our enterprise. 1 . 

If you knew how I work ! I am a galley slave 
to pen and ink, a true dealer in ideas. I am just 
now finishing the fourth volume of the ' Contes 
philosophiques : ' I have only a few pages to write. 
' Les Chouans ' is being reprinted, and it has 
to be corrected. I am preparing, besides, a large 
work called ' La Bataille/ and then I have to 
finish a book in two volumes octavo — ' Conversa- 
tions entre Onze Heures et Minuit/ It is a great 
pleasure to me to find you like the fourth volume 
of the * Scènes de la Vie privée' ; ' for I value that 4 

1 This enterprise consisted in editing his own works himself. 


volume. I could not write it now; it requires 
youth and observation. 

A thousand kind things to M. Carraud. As 
for you, there is no need of grand words ; you 
understand all that a friendly heart offers 

I never think of you but to find some sweet 
remembrance. Ah! if it had only been the 
Pyrenees, I should have been able to see you ; 
but it is necessary that I go and climb about 
at Aix, in Savoy, to run after some one who, 
perhaps, will laugh at me — one of those aristocra- 
tic women of whom you no doubt have a horror ; 
one of those angelic beauties to whom one ascribes 
a soul ; a true duchess, very disdainful, very 
loving, subtle, witty ; a coquette, like nothing I 
ever yet have seen, and who says she loves me, 
who wants to keep me in a palace at Venice (for 
I tell you everything), and who desires I should 
write nothing, except for her ; one of those women 
who must be worshipped on one's knees when 
they wish it, and whom one has such pleasure 
in conquering ; a woman to be dreamt of, jealous 
of everything. Ah ! it would be much better to 
be in Angoulême at the Poudrerie — very sensible 
and quiet, listening to the rolling of the mills, 
learning from you how to pocket a billiard ball, 


to laugh and to talk . . . than thus to lose one's 
time and one's life ! 

Adieu. Think that there is a soul in me, and 
that the soul likes to think of you. 

I am here for a fortnight ; and, if I can, if you 
are at the Poudrerie — if — if — I will certainly try ! 

To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

Sache : July 28, 1832. 

My dear, beloved Mother, — I have the two 
parcels ; but the first only arrived on the 26th, 
and the second will be to-day at Azay ; I am 
sending for it while writing you this letter, to 
calm the apprehensions my two preceding letters 
may have occasioned. Madame D is ex- 
pected daily. You will understand that this takes 
up a good deal of my time, for I must smooth 
the ways. Therefore I cannot roam the fields 
or work as much as I would. 

M. Dumont requires an entire day of me. I 
sent him back the documents by post, and this 
has retarded Gosselin : instead of sending his 
packet to the coach office to-day, I can hardly do 
so before Saturday ; I have thirty pages to do 
yet. This letter- writing kills me. I have to write 
tp two people at the same time ; besides which, I 
have other letters to write. 


There is one thing, however, I should like to 
be certain about, as it would make such a great 
alteration in my position and modify all my plans. 
Work is impeded by this uncertainty ; for as she x 
is expected from day to day, I go three times a 
week to Méré. Now, it is impossible to reconcile 
this state of things with work. Nevertheless, 
Gosselin having been satisfied — and he shall be 
so this week — I shall quickly polish off 'La 
Bataille/ unless the battle of love begins before ; 
but even then I shall give you the funds to honour 
the August bill, and you will give him the bill I 
now send you. This is what is called a renewal. 

I start on Monday for Angoulême. Send your 
answer there. * For the next forty days I shall 
neither write to nor answer anyone, except your- 
self. Send my letters, however, in the parcels 
containing proofs. 

State exactly the points on which you require 
an answer, that I may have the less to write, for 
I shall be overwhelmed with work. In my eager- 
ness to get ourselves out of difficulty I shall do 
impossibilities. If by good fortune I am able to 
work as well as I did the last two days I was 
at St.-Firmin, / shall save ourselves. To carry 

1 This evidently refers to some matrimonial project. 


us on till then it will be necessary to raise a loan, 
to be repaid on September i or 15. 

Farewell, my beloved mother. I embrace you 
with all my heart, like a poor unhappy child who 
yearns sadly to press his mother to his bosom. 
Farewell. Your illness made me very anxious, and 
you give me not one detail about yourself \ it is 
you who should write. 

To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

Angoulême : July 19, 1832. 

My dear Mother, — Surely you must have 
received a letter from me touching all that you 
ask in yours of the 16th, which I have received 
to-day. I explained why I wrote no more ; I 
shall not go over this explanation again. What 
you say about my silence is one of those things 
which, to use your expression, makes me grasp my 
heart with both hands ; for it is incredible I should 
be able to produce all I do (I am obeying the 
most rigorous necessity) ; so if I am to write I 
ought to have more time, and when I rest, I wish to 
lay down and not to take up my pen again. Really, 
my poor dear mother, this ought to be understood 
between us, once for all ; otherwise, I shall have to 
renounce all epistolary intercourse. 

What am I to answer you about the corn- 


dealer ? I am working night and day to make 
money to pay him. I have stated — the chances of 
illness apart — at what date the ' Conversations entre 
Onze Heures et Minuit ' and ' La Bataille ' will be 
finished ; after these two books I shall do ' Les 
Trois Cardinaux/ These three works, with one 
volume of • Contes drolatiques/ and one volume 
of ' Contes philosophiques/ will amply suffice to 
meet everything. 

Seeing that I shall have no money till forty 
days are past, I can do nothing before that time ; 
this is my answer to everyone, for, unless I sell 
everything for a song and leave myself as naked as 
John the Baptist, I see no other way of raising 

The lady with the manuscript is an adventurer ; 
you may answer, that I have no time to devote to 
the works of others. As a general rule, why 
do you not meet everything with a reference to my 
absence and my return ? Now, my good mother, let 
me tell you that I arrived here the day before 
yesterday in the evening. I rested all yesterday, 
because the journey and the heat had fatigued me 
horribly, the more so as I had travelled the dis- 
tance from Sache to Tours on foot at midday. 
And this morning I was about to make the first 
dash at my work, when your letter came and com- 


pletely upset me. Do you think it is possible to 
have artistic inspirations after being brought sud- 
denly face to face with such a picture of my 
miseries as you have traced ? Do you think that 
if I did not feel them, I should work as I do ? 

I have told you, with tears in my eyes and 
oppression at my heart, that it was impossible my 
manuscript should be ready before August io, 
and on the 10th we shall have eighteen hundred 
francs. See if you cannot arrange everything in 
Paris till that time. If I can get no money, well, 
I must let them sue me, and pay the law costs. It 
will be paying rather high interest You see all 
resolves itself at last into hard work, and hard 

work into tranquillity. 

If Gosselin should take it into his head not to 

send me proofs, ce serait du joli ! Why, it would 
be the ruin of my reputation. I would tear up 
all our agreements in the face of the world. 
The work I have sent him has cost me thirty 
days' and fifteen nights' labour, and I must 
have at least two proofs. I await them with 

I rise at six in the evening ; I correct ' Les 
Chouans ; ' then I work at ' La Bataille ' from eight 
till four in the morning, and during the day I cor- 
rect what I have written in the night This 


is my life. Do you know any one more busily 
occupied ? 

Farewell, my good mother. Try and achieve 
impossibilities, which is what I am doing on my 
side. My life is one perpetual miracle. I em- 
brace you with all my heart — and with deep sorrow, 
for I am making you as miserable as myself. 

To Madame Emile de Girardin, Paris. 

Angoulême : July 29, 1832. 

Will you allow me to entrust you with a 
secret ? Being at a distance, may I make both 
question and answer, and shall I be presuming 
beyond the fact if I write you down good-natured, 
ingenious, and obliging ? 

First, do not say where I am, nor who is writing 
to you, nor what I am going to have the imperti- 
nence, the overweening audacity, to ask you. If 
you refuse, let it be with one of the prettiest noes 
you ever pronounced, and still keep my secret. 

I have finished a book called ' Etudes de 
Femmes/ I must have a preface written by a 
woman. Will you do it for me ? 

If you deem me worthy of a few penfuls of ink, 
if you will consent to blacken your finger- tips, if 
— if — it is a case for a thousand i/s. Write me 
one little word. I write to you from Angoulême, 


whither I have come to have my hair cut, and until 
August 20 your gracious answer, whatever it may 
announce, will find me here. Then, if you grant 
my prayer, I will send you a few words touching 
that same preface, which would constitute nine 
hundred and ninety-nine parts in a thousand of 
the success of my book, and my greatest sorrow 
will be that I can never render you a similar 

Did it occur to you that I was thinking of 
you and Emile when the wax candles were 
scintillating ? When your ears buzzed, when you 
were gay, did you think I was near you in spirit ? 
No ; you would all have quizzed me very likely 
— that is, if you classed me with the folks who have 
short memories, and God knows if I have a short 
one ! Do you know that it is impossible when 
one is en province not to turn ones mental gaze 
towards that drawing-room of yours, where all is 
wit and wisdom, where praise must pay a penalty 
to sarcasm, and yet we still come back to be made 
dupes, because all there is charming, and we pre- 
fer enchanting illusions to truths which are bitter. 
At least I am so constituted — ready to be run 
away with by a word like Astolfo on his 

You will not forget to remember me to all who 


have a title to my remembrances, and you will 
express for me all that I ought to think. 

Answer me sincerely, and if it be yes, let me 
practise all the encroachments of friendship ; for 
you, Delphine divine, — as that poor dear madman 
Gérard used to say, — and Emile, can never doubt 
the sincerity of the sentiments of your affectionate 

H. de B. 

To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

Angoulême: July 29, 1832. 

My tiny mother, as Laura says, I have 
received to-day the parcel of proofs ; but do 
explain to Gosselin, that I must have all that has 
been set up in type, the entire work, before my eyes, 
in order to correct it ; for it is not of the ordinary 
routine, like other works of the kind. Surely M. 
Crapelet has enough type to let Gosselin have at 
his disposal a hundred and twenty, or a hundred 
and forty, miserable pages, which is the length of 
this ' Notice/ * 

As for me, if I correct slip by slip I shall lose a 
fortnight over the work, whereas if I have the whole 
before me, and correct it at one stretch, it would 
only take me three days; and my hours are 
so precious that everything must bend to the 

1 The first edition of Louis Lambert, which is the work here re- 
ferred to, appeared under the title of Notice biographique sur Louis 

VOL. I. T 


necessity of economising time. Explain this 
thoroughly to Gosselin aforesaid. 

Now, dear mother, I am going to surprise you 
by the despatch within a very short time of a parcet 
of manuscript, as the tradespeople say, wherewith 
you can raise a hundred louis. Necessity inspired 
me for a whole week, and I seized opportunity 
and inspiration by the forelock. Mame will have 
the task of arranging all this. At the same time 
and place, I will tell you how, for the thing 
referred to consists of three articles, which will 
come out, without committing me, in three papers, 
and they will make a book for Mame. 

Farewell, I throw myself into your arms and 
embrace you with effusion. Pay everything in the 
way you mention ; I on my side will make money 
strenuously, and we will balance at the end of a 
given time receipts against expenses. 

The corrections of ' Les Chouans ' are jogging 
on ; I have a volume ready. 

To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

Sache: July 1832. 

My dear Mother, — Here are all the particulars 
I can give you, and for which you asked me. 

Since I arrived here I have been constantly 
employed over Gosselin's work ; for I feel that to 


make myself a name, I must be always doing 
better and better ; and, not having received in good 
time my materials for the two tales which were 
easy, I have undertaken one which was beyond 
my powers ; but at last it is finished in manuscript, 
and I have only the proofs to work at. However, 
up to the present the work in question, * The 
Memoir of Dumont,' my correspondence and my 
visit have absorbed my whole time. 

As to Madame D . She wrote me a few 

polite words to thank me for the ' Scènes.' Clara 
told me the last thing, that she would not come 
to Touraine till the month of October ; so I shall 
go to Angoulême, not to be six months with M. 
de Margonne. I am going to finish ' La Bataille ' 
straight off ; and as I have but little to do to finish 
the ' Conversations entre Onze Heures et Minuit/ 
all will be ready in time, and I shall return to 
Touraine in the month of October. 

But my dear mother, I am in a state of con- 
tinual vexation and apprehension. I cannot send 
M. Dieulouard * any manuscript until August i ; 
what am I to do ? Neither my imagination nor 
my courage are at fault, but there is no time. 
This year I shall have published eight volumes 
octavo. I can issue no more, even though I 

1 The manager of La Revue de Paris, 

T 2 


should have something else ; accordingly I have, 
much against the grain, and with the view to 
extricate myself at one stroke, made up my mind 
to write two or three pieces for the theatre ! No 
greater misfortune could befall me ; but necessity 
is the stronger of the two, and I cannot otherwise 
retrieve my position. I shall see if I cannot make 
use of some one, so as not to compromise my 

But whether I succeed with the lady in question 
or no, it is impossible that the affair should 
come off in time to serve my interests. The more 
we go on the less likely is the success of the book- 
business. I leave you the mistress to make any 
sacrifices you may deem necessary. If you can 
sell the horses, sell them ; if you wish even to get 
rid of Leclercq, pay him and send him away. I 
shall travel till I have set myself up again. Those 
two papers quarrelling with me, egged on by the 
petty intrigues of my enemies, was what upset 
everything. I was in great distress about it 
for a week ! I should want at least six weeks 
of perfect tranquillity, to remit to you the four 
thousand eight hundred francs I am to have for 
the two works I am going to write. If you cannot 
find the means to secure this, write me word. I 
am resolved to turn everything into money, and 



begin again from a fresh start. It would be 
absurd, for, barring these six months of pressure, I 
have never been in a fairer position. Sooner or 
later, literature, politics, journalism, a marriage 
or some grand speculation will make my fortune. 
We must suffer a little longer ; would I were the 
only one to suffer ! During the last four years I 
have a score of times been tempted to expatriate 
myself. But you are now in a suffering state, 
and are forced by necessity to become one of the 
causes of my secret heart-aches. I have loaded 
you with nearly all my troubles, besides your 
own, and this is torture to me. 

You ask me to write to you in full detail ; but, 
my dear mother, have you yet to be told what my 
existence is ? When I am able to write, I work 
at my manuscripts ; when I am not working at 
my manuscripts, I am thinking of them ; I never 
have any rest. How is it my friends are not 
aware of this ? I shall end by stopping my ears 
against all remonstrance, knowing in my conscience 
that I am not to blame. And now I will, as suc- 
cinctly as possible, put down in writing what are 
the things most necessary to be done. 

Go, if you possibly can, and find M. Pichot, to 
obtain his consent for our going together to see 
Mame ; for what can I write to him ? What ! my 


poor mother, you ask me to write five letters, all 
of them polite civilities and instructions, to five 
judges ! Why, what in the world could I do ? I 
had better go at once and throw myself into the 
Indre ! 

You will have seen that our ideas coincided 
as to the tilbury and the horse and Leclercq. 
As to the last mentioned, you might send him 
here, for I am like one of the family. 

Farewell. I must return to my work, in order 
to complete my tour de force. I embrace you 
with all my heart. 

Of course, if you can get the price I said for 
the horse, sell him. In any case you must keep 
all that appertains, to the harness, &c, and sell the 
horse as he stands. 

The numbers of ' L'Artiste ' containing ' La 
Transaction ' are still of much use to me. 


To Madame de Balzac. 

Angoulême : July 30, 1832. 

My dear beloved Mother, — As soon as this 
letter reaches you, look in my library on the lower 
shelf among the duodecimos for ' Le Jeune Irlan- 
dais/ and send it me by the diligence. Make 
them despatch it immediately, for I want it very 


urgently. Don't forget a little money (I owe thirty 
francs already), nor the locatelli lamp : it is meant 
as a surprise for Madame Carraud. 

Heavens! how Gosselin irritates me! He 
doesn't know how much time he makes me lose 
by not sending me the whole of ' Lambert ' set up 
at once. Does he not see that I am in a vein 
of work, and likely to perform miracles ? Now 
I can answer for my ' Notice,' it will make the 
sale in one day of thousands of copies of ' Les 
Contes philosophiques/ 

Farewell, little mother. I shall not stay here 
longer than August 20. Matters have been ar- 
ranged at Aix, so that I can go and stay there 

1 have till October 1 before I return to Sache, 
since milady does not return till then. By that 
time I shall have added mightily to my reputation 
— you will see how much ! 

Farewell. I have not time to say more. 
Win my lawsuits ! A thousand caresses from my 
heart Your much loving Son. 

To Madame de Balzac. 

Angoulême : 1 August 1832. 

My dear Mother, — I cannot write to you 
to-day in detail. It is eleven o'clock at night ; I 


am extremely ill from overwork ; and if I had not 
feared to alarm you, I should have made Madame 
Carraud write to you ; but what I have to say is 
most confidential. 

I have worked for a hundred and sixty hours 
at Gosselin's book. I beg you, my dear, well- 
beloved mother, to take it to him yourself, and 
make him write to assure me that I shall have a 
fresh proof of it at Lyons poste restante. 

Look yourself that the proof be on white paper, 
and that it be all in pages. 

Impress upon him from me that the least costly 
and most expeditious way will be to have all set 
up afresh and put into pages immediately. 

My good mother, my reputation and future 
career are involved in this ; look to it, that I shall 
not have risked bringing on an illness for abso- 
lutely nothing at all. I must have this proof, and 
an assurance that I shall have it. Lastly, send me 
back by the Messageries Royales, bureau restant 
Lyons, the fresh copy I am sending to Gosselin ; 
and take care that this manuscript be despatched 
simultaneously with the proofs by post, so that if 
any words have been omitted, I may look them out 
in my. manuscript. 

This is all I have to say on the Gosselin busi- 
ness. Now to other matters. 


You will send the two letters enclosed to their 
destination. You will not let Buloz know anything. 
If he should come, tell him to come and see you 
on Friday August 1 7 at four o'clock. On that 
day you will receive, bureau restant, a parcel, con- 
taining the manuscript for the ' Revue des Deux 
Mondes/ and the terms. In that parcel will be a 
letter, wherein I answer in detail all your questions. 
I hope to be better, and to explain all. Now in 
sending the letter to M. Pichot (Rue du Gros 
Chenet), you will send word to him by Paradis 
en grand tenue, that you have received some 
manuscripts from me, and that you beg him to 
call on Thursday at a certain hour, or at any time 
during the day, as you may please, You would 
do well to receive him at my place, if he comes. 

Now if he does come, this is what you will tell 
him in succinct terms : 

That the ' Revue de Paris ' must engage to 
pay me two hundred francs per sheet, without 
deductions for blanks. That I must be printed 
in pica. 

And that in his letter he must tell me that so 
long as he manages the ' Revue,' nothing dis- 
agreeable shall be said of me therein ; lastly, that 
if I please, I may reprint my articles as books ; 
I only intend the ' Revue ' to have the right 


of the first publication; that is to say, that the 
articles supplied by me shall not re-appear in any 
other paper. 

If he agree to all this, you will hand him the 
manuscript, impressing it upon him that he must 
have the whole set up at once and send me the 
proof on white paper with the manuscript, so that 
the whole should reach me at Lyons bureau 
restant on August 2 1 . 

If M. Pichot should refuse, you will say: 
' Then let the matter drop/ You will receive by 
the Buloz parcel further particulars as to my 
journey, the money to be sent me, &c. 

Pardon my curtness, beloved mother ; for two 
consecutive nights I have sat up, and I must rise 
at three to-morrow, to carry this parcel from La 
Poudrerie to Angoulême, in order to make sure 
of its going. 

You will receive the books from Saint Cyr by 
another despatch ; I am having the maps copied, 
which will cost me a good sum. 

Farewell, I embrace you from my heart 
Never was I so exhausted, and you will never 
know what an effort it has been to write to you. 
I embrace you with all my heart, my well be- 


To Madame Laure Surville, Paris. 

Angoulême : August 1832. 

My dear and well beloved Laura, — I have 
just received your few words, and despite my 
fatigue, I cannot possibly help writing to you. 
You have moved me to tears by what you say of 
my poor mother. I dare not write to her, for 
yesterday I answered her somewhat shortly, and 
I never shall be able to express all I feel for her. 

Thanks, dear sister ; the devotedness of loving 
hearts does one so much good! You have re- 
stored to me that energy, which until now has 
enabled me to conquer the difficulties of my life ! 
Yes ! you are right, I will not stop, I will go on, 
I shall reach my object, and some day you will 
see me counted amongst the great intellects of my 
country ! 

But what efforts are needed to attain this ! 
They break down the body, and when weariness 
comes, discouragement follows ! This ' Notice 
biographique sur Louis Lambert ' is a work . in 
which I wished to measure my strength with 
Goethe and Byron, with ' Faust ' and ' Manfred,' 
and it is a tournament that is not yet finished. 
I have not yet corrected the proofs. 

I do not know whether I shall succeed, but 


this fourth volume of the ' Contes philosophiques ' 
ought to be a final answer to my enemies, and 
ought to foretell an incontestable superiority. 

Thus the poor artist should be forgiven his 
weariness, his discouragement, and above all his 
momentary forgetfulness of all things foreign to 
his subject. ' Louis Lambert ' has cost me so 
much labour ! What numbers of books I have been 
obliged to read and to read again before I could 
write this work! It will, perhaps, one of these 
days, turn science into new roads. If I had 
made it a purely learned work, it might have 
attracted the attention of thinkers, who as it 
is, will not condescend to look at it. But if by 
chance it should find its way into their hands, 
they may speak of it — perhaps ! . . . 

I believe * Louis Lambert ' to be a grand 
work ! Why speak again of its conclusion ? You 
know what made me select it ? You are always 
timid. This conclusion is probable, and there are 
melancholy instances which prove, alas ! too surely 
th^t it is so. Does not the doctor say, that 
great intellects which are too much worked are 
always on the brink of madness ? 

I hope soon to have finished * La Bataille ' and 
' Les Conversations/ The money I shall receive 
for them ought to be sufficient for all that is 


needed. After this enormous labour, I shall make 
a journey on foot. It will be necessary for my 
health. Then, instead of resting, I shall begin the 
1 Les Trois Cardinaux/ which will be interspersed 
with petits contes drolatiques. It is all I shall be 
able to do between now and winter ; and this winter, 
if my position does not improve, I have decided 
to try the theatre, anything to relieve my mother 
from her present anxieties. I will sacrifice for her 
all my political prospects ; but do not tell her any- 
thing about this. Again, thanks for your letter, 
and forgive the poor artist the discouragement 
which called it forth. The game is begun, and I 
play such high stakes ! I must go on. My books 
are the only answer I shall ever deign to make 
to those who are beginning to attack me. 

Yes ; you are right, my progress is real, and 
my infernal courage will some day be rewarded. 
Persuade my mother to believe in this, my dear 
sister ; tell her to bestow on me the charity of her 
patience ; she will reap the recompense of all her 
devotion ! Some day, I hope, a little glory will 
repay her for all ! Poor mother ! the same imagi- 
nation with that she has endowed me keeps her 
from ever knowing repose ! Do not I also know 
this ? Tell my mother that I love her, as I did 
when a child. Tears overcome me whilst writ- 


ing these lines, tears of tenderness and despair, 
for I feel what the future will be, and I want this 
devoted mother to be present on the day of 
triumph ! When shall I reach it ? Take care 
of our mother, Laura, both now and ever. As 
for you and your husband, never doubt my feel- 
ings ; if I cannot write to you, let your tenderness 
be indulgent, never accuse my silence ; say to your- 
selves : ' He thinks of us, he talks to us/ Under- 
stand me, good friends, you, my oldest and ever- 
enduring affections ! 

After my long meditations, and heavy work, 
I rest myself in your hearts, as in a sweet spot 
where nothing can come to harm me ! Some day, 
when my works are developed, you will under- 
stand how many hours were needful before I 
could have thought or written so many things ; 
you will then absolve me from all that has dis- 
pleased you, and you will pardon, not the egotism 
of the man (for the man has none), but the egotism 
of the thinker and worker. 

Adieu, my good sister. I have given you the 
time to-day which I intended to dedicate to a letter 
to Madame de Castries. She can do without it. 
You will tell mamma, that though I have not 
written to her, there is in this letter the tenderest 
outpouring of the heart for her; say many 


friendly and kindly things to your husband, 
from me, his brother-in-heart ; and I thank you 
much for telling me how his affairs are going 

I embrace you, dear consoler, who brings me 
hope. Your letter has revived me ; after read- 
ing it, I shouted, and cried, ' Forward, soldier ! 
throw thyself into the fight ! ' 

To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

Angoulême : August 21, 1832. 

My good Mother, — I have just received your 
letter, and thank you much, my darling, for I was 
very anxious — I thought you ill. 

I am off to-morrow the 22 nd for Lyons, 
but I shall not arrive until the 25th. I shall 
borrow a hundred and fifty francs of M. Carraud, 
which you will send back to him by the Messa- 
geries, as they want no money paid for them in 
Paris. A letter of advice is not needed, the thing 
is all settled. 

Simultaneously with my departure, beloved 
mother, I will despatch to your address a packet, 
containing the acceptances, a letter, the books 
for Saint Cyr to be returned to M. Villemejane, 
librarian, as coming from M. Périollas ; together 


with the manuscript for Buloz of the ' Revue des 
Deux Mondes/ with my terms. 

I have worked a good deal ; I shall have by 
next January three volumes in octavo for Mame. 
I have completely changed my mind as to what 
I wrote to him. I have thrown together into a 
collected form the ' Études de Femmes/ the 'Con- 
versations, &c./ forming three original volumes, 
which I intend for him ; but ' La Bataille ' must 
appear before everything else. 

Copying the maps, twenty francs ; passport, 
ten francs ; I owed fifteen francs for discount 
here ; then there were bouquets for birthdays, 
fifteen francs, and ten francs lost at cards : total, 
seventy francs. I had left fifteen francs owing 
on my fare. So that, with postage of letters, I 
have spent the hundred francs you sent me. 

The hundred and fifty francs I am now borrow- 
ing will hardly take me to Lyons. However, if 
the three hundred francs I shall get at Lyons will 
not carry me on far, with all my economy, we 
must communicate again. As soon as I arrive at 
Aix, I shall write. 

On the 25 th I shall be at Lyons, where I shall 
stay at least two days. 

Fancy passing by Clermont, and not being able 
to ramble about the country — eh ! 


I shall come back laden with work ; and then 
we shall pay our debts, and our enemies will 
wax lean with vexation. Once more, my mother, 
let me entreat you to look well that my Lyons 
proofs be on white paper, and that I have two 
sets, and that the whole of the manuscripts be 
sent back to me, even those of the first proofs of 
' Lambert/ 

You tell me nothing about Pichot ? 

As to Buloz, I will let you know through what 
channel the proofs can be sent to me at Aix. I 
have still another article ready jbr each ' Revue,' 
and famous ones ! 

Farewell ! I shall write again this evening 
with the packet; but as I had to advise you of 
the despatch of the aforesaid packet, I was bound 
to have a chat with the mother. A good kiss on 
your eyelids, darling mother, and farewell. 

* Lambert ' is a fine thing, and will make a 
sensation. I am waiting with impatience to be at 
Lyons to give a last curl with the comb to this 
great work, which has nearly been the death of 

Your tenderly loving Son. 

vol. 1. U 


To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

Angoulême : Tuesday, noon, 

August 22, 1832. 

I am off to Lyons ; time presses, for we are 
here at La Poudrerie, and the coach starts at two 
o'clock ; so, darling mother, I must be brief. 

I entreat you to keep a most exact account 
of the sum of ten thousand francs, and to care- 
fully note every item of expenditure, even the 
most trifling. And on the opposite page you 
must open an account of each successive sum 
that I shall send you, specifying its source. 
Remark : No credit given to the newspapers ; 
once the article is received, send for the money 
and the account. I will send you my authority 
to receive for each paper. 

Touching the ' Revue des Deux Mondes ' : You 
will request M. Buloz to call at my house (let 
it always be at my house) ; you will show him the 
manuscript, but do not let him take it away, because 
you are only my agent and ignorant of the usual 
practice. Be excessively polite. You will tell 
him that I desire a letter from him, pledging him- 
self to allow nothing that could offend me to be 
inserted in the review of which he is manager» 
whether directly or indirectly. 


That he give a quittance for all antecedent deal- 
ings, clearing all accounts up to September i, 1833, 
between me and the ' Revue.' 

That I am to be printed in the largest type. 

Next, that I am to be paid two hundred francs 
per sheet without deduction for blanks. 

On these terms, all being written and agreed, 
give him ' Les Orphelins.' l 

Buloz will get a fine article written on the 
1 Scènes/ and on the fourth volume of ' Les Contes 

Next, as a favour, he must insert the enclosed 
piece of poetry sent me from Martinique, and 
written by one of my best friends, and he will say 
that he has it through me. 

If the ' Revue de Paris ' and the ' Revue des 
Deux Mondes ' are friendly to me, I will do them 
good service, and I have learned in the provinces 
how great is the influence of my name. 

I will let Buloz know from Aix through what 
channel he is to forward the proofs. 

Answer me in detail on all these points. 

I embrace you from my heart ; and if I have 
forgotten anything, I will write to you from Lyons. 
I sat up all night finishing ' Le Maudit,' 2 an article 

1 Now entitled La Grenadilre. 
' This work never appeared. 

U 2 


for Buloz. I hope to send you, the ist of October, 
by a private hand, the entire manuscript of * La 
Bataille ' and * Les Chouans/ corrected for Mame. 
Between this and then I intend to remain quiet. 

A good kiss to the well-beloved mother. 
Take care of yourself and drill Paradis for me. 


If you do not come to terms with Buloz, keep 
the MS. : I will tell you later what to do with it. 

To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

Lyons : August 25, 1832. 

My dear worshipped mother, — I arrived at 
Lyons this morning, and this evening I am off 
to take the waters. 

The journey from Angoulême here is per- 
formed at the rate of one league an hour. We 
sleep on the road ; consequently, I have been four 
days travelling ; but what an admirable journey ! 
and what a pity it would have been to hurry 
through it. 

France has been on the point of losing a very 
great man in my person. I had chosen the 
impériale for my place. It so befel that at 
Thiers, in Puy de Dôme, my foot slipped on 
the top step, and the iron edge has made a little 
hole in the bone of my right leg. As I am obliged 


to keep quite still, with my leg stretched out, I 
prefer being at Aix, where I shall be better cared 
for than among strangers. If this ' bobo ' * will 
come to anything I know not, at present it is 
nothing ; the wound closed on the road. I have 
only a swelled leg and a difficulty in walking. 
Do not be anxious ; if it were serious, I would 
tell you, as my name is Honoré. 

I will write to you about Pichot when I get to 
Aix. I have only had time to read over the ten 
sheets from Gosselin, correct them, and send them 
back by the diligence of the Messageries Notre 
Dame des Victoires. But within three days from 
this, the article for the ' Revue de Paris ' will be 
on its way, and will reach you four days after 
receipt of this. Let Éverat or Pichot know. 

You can keep 4 Les Orphelins' for the ' Revue 
de Paris.' Buloz shall have nothing. You will 
receive further instructions with my packet of 
proofs, in which there will be a letter for you. 

You did well to sell ' Smogler ' and the cabri- 
olet Mind you put the money carefully by, with 
this label on it : ' Remount of horses and car- 
riages.' This will make you laugh. 

Have the tilbury laid up in Jiocchi, and let it 
be well wrapped round, wheels and all. 

1 A nursery word for a hurt 


I have work finished for the next four months, 
so that, according to the contracts we are going to 
sign, there will be an income of two thousand francs 
for us ; then ' La Bataille,' the new ' Contes drola- 
tiques/ and the four volumes for Mame will make 
a good deal of money, and that will not be all : 
so do not let us despair. 

Intreat Crapelet's foreman to revise carefully 
the corrections for Gosselin ; he will receive, 
directed to him, before ten days are over, the 
corrected copy he asks for. I left it at Sache, and 
I am writing to M. de Margonne to despatch it. 
The master of Sache is exact; therefore set 
Gosselin s mind at ease. But Gosselin has not 
sent me the first sheets of the ' Bons propos des 
Religieuses de Poissy/ l whereof I am in urgent 
need, as likewise of those numbers of ' L'Artiste ' 
I have already asked you for. 

Farewell, good mother, until to-morrow, when 
I will write you from Aix, but the letter will be 
inside the parcel of proofs for the ' Revue.' 

A good kiss, mother. 

' Lambert' is completely corrected. I am still 
pleased with it M. Chambellant will turn pale 
at it, and so will all the Swedenborgians. The 

1 This tale forms part of the second dizain of the Contes dro- 


parcel containing the proofs of ' Lambert ' is ad- 
dressed to you ; go quickly to the diligence 
office for it. 

If you have the tilbury new lined with cloth, 
let the colour be maroon. 

To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

Aix : Saturday, August 27, 1832. 

My kind and excellent Mother, — After writing 
to you in such haste, I felt my inmost heart melt 
as I read your letter again, and I worshipped you. 
How shall I return you, when shall I return you, 
and can I ever return you, by my love and endea- 
vours for your happiness, all that you have done 
for me ? I can at present only express my 
deep thankfulness. This journey which you have 
enabled me to make was very necessary ; I was 
in such absolute need of some relaxation. ' Louis 
Lambert ' had left me overwhelmed with fatigue. 
I had sate up many nights, and taken coffee to 
such an excess that I had brought on pains in 
the stomach amounting almost to cramp. ' Louis 
Lambert ' is perhaps a chef-d'œuvre, but it has cost 
me dearly ; six weeks of unrelenting toil at Sache 
and ten days at Angoulême. This time I think 
certain friends of mine may perhaps begin to 
rate me as a man of some account 


I thank you from the bottom of my heart for 
all the trouble you take to save me from the 
practical annoyances of life. My ever-increasing 
affection . is not feeling which words express. 
Toil so obstinate may perhaps be crowned by 
fortune ; I am the more encouraged to hope, as 
looking round, I see few talents unrewarded. As 
to fame, I am beginning not altogether to despair 
of that either. 

My darling mother, how can I comfort you 
otherwise than as I comfort myself — with dreams ! 
A young man came four leagues on purpose 
to see me when he heard I was at La Poudrerie, 
and the people of the Cercle Constitutionnel (Con- 
stitutional Club) have told me that, if I had a 
mind to be a Deputy, they would elect me, not- 
withstanding my aristocratic opinions. 

' Is this genuine ? ' or did they mock me ? I 
cannot tell, but it raises my hope. The point now, 
is to go on making further exertions, and not to 
let my courage fail. 

I have been better for the last week, and have 
recovered those intervals of inspiration which had 
abandoned me since my fall. Coffee had ceased to 
produce any effect. I am now in a glorious vein ; 
and I hope to do a great deal of work here, where 
I am so quiet. 


I shall probably make a pedestrian tour in 
Switzerland, after I have published ' La Bataille ' 
and ' Les Conversations.' Go then and see Gos- 
selin, that he may hurry the printer. I am 
devoured with eagerness to publish the fourth 
volume of the ' Contes philosophiques.' Take 
care of your health, my mother ; you must live, 
that I may acquit myself of my debt towards you. 
Oh ! how I should embrace you if you were here ! 
How deep is my gratitude towards the kind hearts 
who pluck some of the thorns from my life and 
smooth my path by their affection. But con- 
strained to an unceasing warfare against destiny, 
I have not always leisure to give utterance to 
what I feel. I would not, however, allow a day 
to pass without letting you know the tenderness 
your late proofs of devotion excite in me. A 
mother suffers the pangs of labour more than once 
with her children, does she not, my mother ? 
Poor mothers, are you ever enough beloved ! 
When shall I be a genius, like Byron or Goethe ? 
When shall I reach the tribune (of the Chamber 
of Deputies) ? that I may then give you pleasure 
equal to the tortures I now inflict on you. I 
embrace and press you to my heart with joy ; 
divine all that I have left unwritten. 


To Madame de Balzac. 

Aix : Saturday, Sept 1, 1832. 

My dear well-beloved Mother, — Do not be 
anxious about my leg ; two or three baths I took 
here have checked the suppuration, and a scar is 
forming, which I treat with respect No further 
fear : two or three days more, and I shall walk. 

The diligence conductors were all very atten- 
tive, and no further mischance occurred during 
the journey to aggravate the harm done. My 
leg was kept straight all the time. 

Now let us proceed to business in due order. 

I found Auguste Sannegou here, to whom 
I owe eleven hundred francs. This is the 
money that Madame Wilmen, the actress of the 
Vaudeville his mistress, came and asked me for, 
and I would not pay to her, because I did not 
know whether Auguste was still with her. Now, 
it seems my friend has lost a great deal of money 
at Aix, and knowing he was here I wrote to 
him to this effect : ' Will you have your money 
here or in Paris ? I did not give it to Adeline/ 
He was delighted to get it. Therefore, my dar- 
ling, you must send me as soon as possible eleven 
hundred francs, which I will hand over to Sanne- 


gou, and two hundred francs more, which I shall 
keep for myself, because I have only two hundred 
left, and I cannot have less than four hundred 
francs in my pocket in a foreign place, in case of 
any accident. Then I shall go to Geneva, to the 
Chartreuse, &c. 

Have the inclosed letter conveyed to Adeline ; 
she might get up tales about me at the Vaudeville, 
and this will shut her mouth. If she has left 
the Rue St.- Honoré, they will know her address 
at the Vaudeville. So that matter is settled. 

Send me my money by the diligence of the 
Messageries Royales. 

' Revue de Paris/ I have sent my proofs back 
to Éverat direct by the post ; however bulky 
the packet, it will not cost more than by diligence, 
and one avoids the Custom-house. There is a 
letter inside for M. Pichot, which letter contains 
a rectification of the agreement you will sign with 
him. I am going to give you the clauses of it, 
and you will show them to Dumont or to Labois ; 
for my head is so full of ideas that I may 
have omitted something. When the agreement 
is signed, you will hand over ' Les Orphelins ' to 
M. Pichot. This will make the contribution for 
October; and perhaps I may send seven or 
eight pages more, besides 'Les Amours d'une 


Laide/ * which will do for November, when I send 
the proofs of the ' Orphelins/ 

And now you will impress on M. Pichot that 
the ' Revue ' must allow me to take back without 
dispute ' Maître Cornelius/ which is in the fourth 
volume of the ' Contes philosophiques/ and my 
reckoning with the ' Revue ' must be regarded as 
amply paid off by ' Madame Firmiani ' and ' La 
Femme de Trente Ans ' ; I am not even sure if 
they are not, strictly speaking, in my debt some 
three hundred francs. When the agreement is 
signed, you will send the enclosed to Buloz, who 
may claim some money from you : if so, you will 
pay him what he asks, that is, upon a settlement 
of account. 

' Contes philosophiques/ — When the fourth 
volume is published by Gosselin, send me two 
copies out here. Place them each in a wrapper, 
one directed to me, and the other to Madame 
la Duchesse de Castries ; you will then send off 
both volumes in the same envelope to M. Lom- 
bard, banker, Geneva. My darling mother, be 
sure to send these directly there are any copies 

You will then ask for ten more copies ; one 
for yourself, first of all, and the others to be 

1 This work was never published. 


distributed, as follows, accompanied by small 
notes : 

1. To Madame de Berny. 

2. To Madame Delannoy. 

3. To Madame Carraud (by coach), 

4. To M. de Margonne (ditto). 

5. To M. Nacquart. 

6. To M. Emile de Girardin. 

7. To Madame Sophie Gay. 

8. To Madame d'Abrantès. 

9. To Surville. 

And request Gosselin to send one from me to 
Philarète Chasles, who has written the Preface, 
and one to M. Mame. 

Lastly, one to M. Jules Sandeau (Quai St- 
Michel 26), with an intimation that in my absence 
I have charged you to send it to him that he might 
present it to the rightful claimant. A pretty 
little room had been retained for me here, where 
I remain in solitude up to six in the evening ; it 
costs me two francs a day. I have my meals 
sent in from a neighbouring restaurant: in the 
morning an egg and a cup of milk ; this breakfast 
costs me fifteen sous ; dinner to match. 

Then at six I go downstairs to the apartment 
of the Duchess, and spend the evening there till 
eleven o'clock. 


I work in this way twelve hours in the early 
part of the day. I have begun ' La Bataille/ and 
shall go on without stopping, so that I may be able 
to send you the manuscript from the 25 th to the 
30th of the month. 

Madame de Castries is full of the most ami- 
able attentions towards me. My only relaxation 
is my little soirée in her company. I have to 
work so hard, I cannot afford to see any one. 
When I have finished ' La Bataille/ I shall go to 
Geneva, and to the Grande Chartreuse. 

You see my way of life is simple enough and 
not expensive. I carried away with me on June 5 
one hundred and twenty francs ; you sent me a 
hundred in the first instance, then three hundred 
more, and I borrowed a hundred and fifty of 
M. Carraud : total, six hundred and seventy francs 
for three months ; and this includes coach fare, 
hotel expenses, and servants largely fee'd. What 
say you, mother ? — though I am somewhat of a 
poet and a dreamer, you must own I am mighty 

My four hundred francs will carry me on till 
about mid-October, because I intend to make 
some excursions. 

Farewell, my kind mother, I embrace you with 
all my heart, and go back to work. Yet I don't 


know, perhaps I may take a rest to-day. I made 
all the corrections in ' La Femme abandonnée ' 
in two days. 

You see that I am doing what you wish for the 
1 Revue de Paris/ I will hold out my hand to M. 
Pichot, and will forget everything. I have made 
up my accounts : on February 1 5 you will have 
received the ten thousand francs. In my very 
next letter I will explain in what way. You tell 
me nothing about my lawsuits ; are they lost ? 
Mother, a kiss from the heart of your Honoré. 

Keep Paradis, together with the cook ; but 
break them into their work, polishing the floors, 
and, above all, doing up my room in superior 
fashion. This will be a long affair ; but if he is 
honest, I wish to attach him to me. 

Have you sold the cabriolet and the horse 
without harness ? You tell me nothing of all this. 
Farewell, my kind mother ! 

I find that, as I have time and space, I can 

give you the account now. 

From September to February, six months 

of the ' Revue de Paris ' . . . 3,000 

' La Bataille ' 2,000 

A volume of ' Drolatiques ' . . . 2,000 

The four new volumes for Mame . . 5,000 

There you have 12,000 

And I shall have, moreover, in hand ' Le 


Marquis de Carabas ' * and a volume of ' Contes 
philosophiques/ So, my good mother, as I intend 
doing all this during my travels, I shall come back 
to Paris straight and clear for the moment, and 
then we shall see. Keep carefully apart, not 
mixing it up with any other account, the money for 
the horse and cabriolet. Farewell once more, my 
darling mother ; you may inform M. Dieulouard 
that shortly I shall send him the manuscript. 
The ' Revue de Paris ' will announce the work. I 
press you in my arms, and kiss you on the lids of 
those dear eyes that watch and wake for my sake. 

Make Gosselin send me the commencement 
of the ' Religieuses de Poissy.' I write these 
* Contes drolatiques ' as a relief, and I have done 
three already ; I am pleased with them. 

Look well after everything at my place ; send 
away whom you like, make any saving you deem 

To Madame Zalma Carraud, Angoulême. 

Aix : September, 1832. 

I have arrived at Aix, but not without accident. 
At Thiers I had a narrow escape. Climbing up to 
the impériale just as I had let go the leathern 
straps by which you hoist yourself up, the horses 

1 It never appeared. 


started off at a gallop, and I fell ; but in the act of 
falling, I seized hold of a strap again, and remained 
suspended. The blow I inflicted on the coach, 
by reason of those eight kilogrammes duly ascer- 
tained to be my weight, was a violent one, and the 
edge of one of the iron steps laid open my tibia. 
Trowsers, boot and blouse, all were cut through. 
I did not get my wound dressed till we reached 
Lyons ; it is not healed yet, but the cicatrix 
formed, after taking four baths. I can walk ; and, 
thanks to the care of the diligence conductors, who 
always made a bed for me on their impériales, I 
shall be well in a couple of days. I have already 
been able to get as far as the Lake of Bourget, 
in a carriage. 

I am talking about myself in all simplicity. I 
have had a magnificent journey, with which I am 
well satisfied. The valleys of Limousin are still 
predominant in my memory, even after those of 
Auvergne. But the plain of the Limagne, con- 
trasted with the valley of Boyat, is sublime. The 
weather was fine. I saw the country under every 
favourable condition. Then, too, by the greatest 
chance at Limoges, I fell in with a travelling com- 
panion, who turned out eminently gay and witty, 
and a good soul. It was a little bit of good luck. 
He comes from Limoges, and his name is Dejean. 

vol. 1. X 


I have come here to seek at once both much and 
little. Much because I see daily a person full of 
grace and amiability, litde because she is never 
likely to love me. Why did you send me to Aix ? 

At Lyons, I subjected ' Lambert ' to further 
correction. Like a bear, I licked my cub. I have 
made more cuts ; and I have added something 
you have not seen, I mean the last thoughts of 
Lambert. On the whole, I am satisfied ; it is a 
work instinct with profound melancholy, and with 
science. Indeed, I do deserve to have a mistress, 
and every day increases my sorrow at not pos- 
sessing one, because love is my life, my being. 

You see I am writing to you, notwithstanding 
your prohibition, but perhaps I shall see you again 
soon. ' La Bataille ' is begun. 1 

M. Berges must have received his book. If 
the ' Angoumoisins ' will have me for a Deputy, I 
don't mind having them for my constituents. 2 

The post only goes out three times a week, 
from Aix. I have a small simply furnished room, 
from which I survey the entire valley. I rise re- 
morselessly at five in the morning, and work, sitting 
at my window, till half-past five in the evening. 

1 This book, the full title of which was meant to be La Bataille 
tfAusterlitz, though so frequently mentioned, never appeared. 

2 This gentleman was to have been one of the supporters of his 


My breakfast is brought to me from the club ; one 
egg. Madame de Castries has some good coffee 
made for me. At six we dine together, and I 
spend the evening in her company. She is the 
most refined type of womanhood : Madame de 
Beauséant improved upon ; but are not all these 
lovely manners acquired at the cost of the soul 
within ? 

If Mademoiselle Marinettissima is still with 
you, kiss her on the neck for me, her champion. 
You will not fail to remember me to the high 
and mighty Lord Borget, nor to my lady. I 
bear so far a resemblance to Madame Raison, 
that I suffer from my tibia. This is self- 
flattery. Recall me to the recollection of that 
excellent Latinist, M. Raison. I shall say nothing 
of the good Commandant ; there is always at the 
end of my letter a good grip of the hand for him. 
As for you, I leave you to guess at all that I do 
not insert ; but you will allow me to kiss from 
afar your pretty hand, so soft, so smooth, and in 
the touch of which there is inspiration. 

Do you then wish to bring me to confusion ? 
Madame Nivet, of whom I had time to catch a 
glimpse, has spoken to me about the vases. 

I will be revenged ! 

The Angoulême coach arrives at Limoges in 

x 2 


the morning at six, and the Lyons conveyance- at 
ten. Your nephew showed me the city ; and I 
breakfasted with your sister and her husband. 
Your sister is a great invalid ; there is a fatal tint 
about her complexion. I can easily believe her 
health to be in a precarious state. 

In my headlong way, I was nearly forgetting 
to tell you of this incident which to you must be 
doubly interesting. 

Re-adieu ! In my absence, you will receive 
my ' Lambert.' Had I been in Paris, I might 
have sent one to your neighbours ; but it is not 
an easy matter. Moreover, I should have had 
to give them the four volumes, and my publisher 
gave me notice at Lyons of the approaching ex- 
haustion of the edition. When the next appears, 
I shall have it- more in my power to testify my 
acknowledgment of their gracious acts. You 
know all that is felt towards you here ; but not 
quite all. 

To Madame Laure Surville, at Paris. 

Aix : September 15, 1832. 

One line of remembrance to you, my dear 
sister. In the midst of my travels I have seen 
lovely places ; perhaps I shall see some still more 


beautiful ; I wish you to know that they cannot 
make me forget you. 

From my room I see the whole valley of Aix ; 
in the horizon are hills, the high mountain of the 
Dent-du-Chat, and the delicious Lake du Bourget ; 
but in the midst of all these enchantments one 
must do one's work. My mother will have told 
you, that I have to furnish forty pages a month 
to the ' Revue de Paris.' 

Dear sister, here I am between thirty and 
forty years old, that is to say, in the prime of my 
strength ; I ought now to write all my best things, 
which should form the crown of my labours. I 
shall see whether I can obtain on my return the 
tranquillity which is necessary before I dare 
attempt these great works. 

No doubt my mother has told you, that I was 
nearly killed under the wheels of a diligence ; I 
escaped with a lacerated leg, but baths and rest 
are curing it. I was able yesterday to drive to 
the lake. 

I am at the gates of Italy, and I fear to give 
way to the temptation of passing through them. 
The journey would not be costly ; I could make 
it with the Fitzjames family, who would be 
exceedingly agreeable; they are all perfect to 
me. I should travel in their carriage : and, all 


expenses calculated, it would cost a thousand 
francs to go from Geneva to Rome. My fourth 
of the expense would thus be two hundred and 
fifty francs. At Rome I should want five hundred 
francs ; then I should pass the winter at Naples ; 
but, in order not to touch the receipts at Paris, and 
to leave them all for interest, I will write the 
' Médecin de Campagne ' for Marne, and this book 
will pay for all. I shall never again have such an 
opportunity. The Duke knows Italy, and will 
save me all loss of time ; ignorant persons spend 
much time in going to see useless things. I shall 
work all the time. At Naples I should have the 
Embassy, and the couriers of M. Rothschild, whose 
acquaintance I have made here, and who would 
give me introductions to his brother ; the proofs 
would go on as usual, and the work also. 

Talk about this project with my mother, and 
write me full details about yourselves. A grasp of 
the hand to the ferocious republican. 

To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

Aix : Saturday, September 22, 1832. 

My dear Mother, — The agreement with 
Ricourt * is only for one year, and the year will be 

1 Manager of L Artiste. 


out ih three or four months, leaving it unfulfilled. 
Ricourt has not behaved well to me. I am quite 
willing to leave ' La Transaction ' to its fate, and it 
will be easy to replace it by something else, until I 
regain my ownership of that production, for which at 
present I have not been paid. As to M. Dieulouard, 
pray send him the enclosed letter, without any word 
from yourself, and forward me his reply by the 
very next post By thé time he has answered, 
€ La Bataille ' will be finished : but there is no 
mortal power which will get it out of my port- 
folio, unless M. Dieulouard pays the price for it in 
full ; and no one in the world will persuade me to 
shrink from the action at law which it will be open 
to him to bring. I am furious at being thus tor- 
mented about a work so long, so laborious and 
so difficult, by a man like this, much more than I 
was by that rough bear Gosselin about ' La Peau 
de Chagrin.' Accordingly, I have made up my 
mind to the course I am communicating to you, 
and which I intend to follow out with that per- 
severance and firmness of will which you must by 
this time recognise in me. I will allow no one in 
the world to claim anything whatsoever from me* 
In Paris I should be lured away, my mind diverted ; 
therefore, I shall not return till I have fulfilled all 


my engagements of whatsoever nature they may 

Early in October ' La Bataille,' will be finished ; 
and, saving what M. Dieulouard may determine, 
this matter will be at an end. 

There remains but little to be done to the 
second dizain of the ' Contes drolatiques.' I 
shall then immediately set about ' Le Marquis de 
Carabas ; ' and whilst I am doing this, as there will 
be intervals in composing the work, I shall give 
Mame two volumes in octavo, and perhaps three, 
to keep him patient till he gets € Les Trois 
Cardinaux ; ' then I shall give Gosselin a historical 
romance. So that, when I return to Paris, no 
publisher can ask me for anything, except Mame, 
for whom I shall write ' Les Trois Cardinaux,' 
but I must be in Paris for that. Thus the five 
hundred francs a month from the ' Revue,' and 
the money for the works I shall have written, will 
repay my loan and clear my travelling expenses, 
which I am reducing to the simplest form. If I 
am to remain away from Paris, I prefer Italy 
before all other places, my electioneering interests 
at Angoulême can very well be followed up by 
correspondence. I shall not be hampered with 
my proofs, and by returning the proof of * Les 
Orphelins ' corrected, the ' Revue ' will have the 


article for November ready corrected, also the 
manuscript for December ; thus I shall be well 

In order to give Marne all my works, I should 
have to break off with Gosselin, and Gosselin little 
knows what he will lose, if he should behave badly 
to me. The future edition of the ' Contes philoso- 
phiques* is neither given nor promised to him. 
He is entitled only to one edition of the ' Marquis 
de Carabas ' and to one edition of the historical 
romance, and I shall stipulate that the first editions 
are to be of one thousand only ; so that, at the 
end of the year, I shall re-enter into possession of 
every one of mine that he has published. And 
Mame will inherit all. As a matter of course, 
before my departure I shall send him the copy 
for the ' Chouans ' ; he will have it in time for 
October 15, and it can be printed quickly, as 
there will be no need of proofs. I hope before 
the middle of 1833 to be able to let him have an 
entire edition to bring out, and he certainly shall 
lose nothing by having waited. 

By that time my article in the ' Revue ' will 
have increased my reputation, and I shall re- 
fresh the • Scènes de la Vie privée/ as well as 
the 4 Contes philosophiques,' with some additions. 


Then the ' Trois Cardinaux ' will appear. I 
shall thus have a goodly array of works. 

I have a piece of bad news to communicate. 
Yesterday the wound in my leg re-opened, it 
is enlarged and I have had to consult the 
official doctor of the springs. He told me there 
was no danger ; but he ordered me fifteen days 
of absolute rest, and he is going to set about 
closing the wound ; he fears, however, the bone 
may have been injured, and that splinters will 
have to be expelled. In three days he will 
know whether the bone has been depressed ; I 
shall be able to give you news of this cursed 
wound by the next post He certainly declared 
there was nothing to fear ; but meanwhile it has 
lasted a month already, and prevented me from 
stirring. It is true I committed an imprudence in 
climbing up the Mount du Chat. 

I have worked a great deal, especially in plans 
for books during the last week. 

Farewell, my good, well-beloved mother! I 
embrace you with all my soul. Oh! if you but 
knew how I yearn at this moment to throw myself 
upon your bosom, as into an asylum of undivided 
affection, you would put a few loving words into 
your letters, for the one I am now answering 
contains not even one poor kiss. There is 


nothing in it, except . Ah ! mother, mother, 

this is cruel. 

To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

Aix : Sunday, September 23, 1832. 

My dear mother, my well-beloved mother. — 
My journey to Italy is decided upon. You will 
ask me how I am going to travel. Then, I must 
tell you, little mother, that I only gave Sannegou 
six hundred francs ; he does not mind my putting 
off till the next time we meet paying the five 
hundred francs which remain ; he is a man with a 
soul above this wretched trifle of a debt or the 
postponement of it I was the first to proclaim 
my debt, he cannot say that I ran away from it. 

Calculating everything fairly, this money will 
take me to Rome. I travel as fourth passenger 
in Madame de Castries' vetturino ; and the bar- 
gain — which includes everything, food, carriages, 
hotels — is a thousand francs for all of us to go 
from Geneva to Rome; making my share two 
hundred and fifty francs. 

In Rome I shall want five hundred francs and 
the same in Naples. / do not ask you for them. 
By working for three d^ys and three nights sue- 
cessively, I have written a volume in i8mo. en- 
titled ' Le Médecin de Campagne/ A traveller is 


taking it to Mame. As there are only 200 pages 
in i8mo., he can get it all set up in type, and I 
can give the order to go to press before my 
departure for Italy, which will not be before 
October 10. He will remit me five hundred 
francs to Rome, and five hundred to Naples. I 
shall give him my instructions. 

I shall only have to ask you towards the 
month of March for five hundred francs, with 
which to come back from Naples ; and it is 
even possible I may earn this by some sort of 
work by that time. There is another matter. 
If there should be a general election, the Royalists 
will stand for the colleges, this is now decided. 
In that case M. le Duc de Fitzjames will, in all 
likelihood, be elected in at least two districts. If 
I am not elected at Angoulême, M. de Fitzjames 
will use his interest to get me elected for the 
place he declines. 

I shall make this splendid journey with the 
Duke, who will treat me as if I were his son. I 
also shall be in relation with the best society; 
I am not likely to meet with such an opportunity 
again. M. de Fitzjames has been in Italy before, 
he knows the country, and will spare me all loss 
of time. Besides this, his name will throw open 
many doors to me. The Duchess and he are 


both more than kind to me, in every way, and the 
advantages of their society are great 

My expenses during the journey will not 
much exceed what they would be in Paris ; so 
that, my darling mother, I shall have had a 
splendid journey, I shall have seen Italy, and the 
works of art, the fêtes, the theatres, kept my 

work well going on, and no interest will have 
suffered by it. The necessary intervals of repose 
will be taken on the road, and at each place of 
sojourn I shall work for ten days. Farewell, the 
courier is impatient, and I have yet to write 
to Madame Delannoy and to Madame Carraud 
about what should be done in case of my election. 
My leg is dressed with some of your mother's 
ointment, and I am in less pain. I am waiting till 
to-morrow to see if any splinters appear, and will 
write to you the day after, which is post day. A 
thousand kisses and tender thoughts. 

To Madame Zvlma Carraud. 

Aix : September 23, 1832. 

Thanks from the bottom of my heart for your 
letter, so friendly and so affectionate, in spite of all 
your scoldings. I am writing to you, leaving my 
work for your sake with pleasure. On October 
10, I shall set out for Italy, a temptation beyond 


my power to resist Have no fears, ' La Bataille ' 
will come out, and something better than ' La 
Bataille/ a book after your own heart, ' Le Mé- 
decin de Campagne/ 

Reassure yourself about the ' Revue de Paris/ 
The editor and the paper have done all I could 
humanly expect They will repair all ; they 
make me a fixed allowance of five hundred francs 
for one article a month. 

I am much pleased with you, because you tell 
me all you think, though I cannot agree with 
your observations about my political character, 
about the man of power. My opinions are 
formed, my convictions are made at an age when 
a man is able to judge of his country, of her 
laws, and her manners. I have not joined my 
party blindly ; I have been influenced by no 
personal consideration, this I can swear to 
you, to whom I would never say what is false, 
for with you I speak as from heart to heart 
Thus I may not, I cannot, alter my political 
character, nor my opinions. My plan of govern- 
ment, my ideas are sound and just, at least I 
believe so. They are much more compatible 
with yours than you think. Only I take what I 
consider a surer road to arrive at a good result 
You only see a portion of the existing interests, 


things, persons, manners. I believe I see all, and 
combine all for a prosperous political power. I 
will never sell myself. I shall always be true to 
my professions, noble and generous in my actions. 
The abolition of all nobility outside the Chamber 
of Peers ; the separation of the clergy from Rome ; 
the natural frontiers of France ; perfect equality in 
the middle classes ; the recognition of all genuine 
superiority ; economy in the public expenditure ; 
augmentation of the revenues, through a better 
knowledge of the principles of taxation ; education 
for all : these are the principal points of my poli- 
tical creed, to which you will find me faithful. 
Between my words and my deeds there will 
always be coherence. 

As to the means, I am the best judge of them. 
I submit to every form of calumny ; I am prepared 
for everything, because a day will come when I 
shall find voices to support me. I desire public 
authority to be strong. You may not approve or 
you may not understand my ideas, my means of 
action ; but you will always esteem and love me, 
because I know that I am not to be corrupted by 
money, nor by woman, nor by a decoration, nor 
by power, because I want it to be thorough. I 
see always my whole life before me, and I rate 
my own self-respect higher than all other things. 


This said, do not seek to haggle with me further 
over my opinions. The general plan of them is fixed. 
As to the details of my life, or any ameliorations 
in the methods of execution, your friendship will 
always have a sovereign voice, respectfully listened 
to and with delight. I speak to you as from heart 
to heart, because I know you will respect the secret 
of my political ideas ; they are of a kind to expose 
me to the hatred of my party, were they known. 
But it would be impossible to insure the triumph 
of these ideas without the co-operation, without 
the conviction, of the numbers. I do not deceive 
my party. I believe that its existence is bound up 
in the recognition, without any arrière-pensée, of the 
things required by the nature of the ideas of the 
present time. I may tell you that if M. Berges 
has not been misled by the friendship he expressed 
for me, in the event of an election, I shall present 
myself at Angoulême ; and I would even return 
to La Poudrerie from whatever part of Italy I 
might be in, were I told by you that I have any 
chance of success. I shall have the support of 
the two papers belonging to my party, who have 
at last come to an agreement to return Royalists 
to the next elections. I shall address either to 
you or to M. Berges the different political writings 
I may draw up for the arrondissement Will you 


recommend my little work in i8mo.— ' Le Médicin 
de Campagne/ It will gain me friends. It is a 
piece of writing calculated to do good, and worthy 
to compete for the Monthyon prize. 

Pardon me, dear, for my pleasantries about 
the money for my writings ; they shocked you, 
but they were mere childishness, like many things 
I say and do. Do you think that money could 
repay me for my toil, my health ! No— no ! I set 
above all else the pleasure of causing a heart like 
yours to beat with a quicker pulse ; and though my 
imagination as an artist may sometimes carry me 
away, be assured that I always return with love 
for what is beautiful and true. 

You were both wrong and right to send me 
here : wrong, because I was perfectly happy with 
you ; right, because travelling enlarges one's ideas. 
I say to myself, that a life like mine ought not to 
be dependent on the society of any woman ; that 
I ought to follow my destiny in a large broad way, 
and look a little higher than a woman's girdle. 
Whatever you may say, I shall ever be faithful 
to the friendly hands that have welcomed me to 
La Poudrerie, although I may have compared them 
to the satin softness of Chinese paper. If M. 
Carraud loves me ever so little, he will store up 
for my benefit his ideas on certain improvements, 

vol. 1. Y 


and I will proclaim them to the world by embody- 
ing them in my system. If you are still well dis- 
posed towards me, you will spare me neither 
counsels, nor scoldings, nor reproaches. From 
you all is taken in good kind. You would love 
me much more than you do, did you know how 
much I think of you, in all matters. I went to 
La Grande Chartreuse, and several of my exclama- 
tions were addressed to you. From Italy you 
will receive every month the tribute of my remem- 
brances. In Italy — if I go there ! for I hardly 
yet believe in my journey — give me often a place 
in your thoughts, as I give you in mine. Your 
pure and disinterested affection is one of my 
greatest consolations. 

The brilliant and happy day you wish for me 
dawns not yet, and I am still a prey to the same 
griefs ; and they are at times very poignant 
Excessive labour alone enables me to bear them. 
For a month past the wound in my leg has been 
again open ; nor does it look as though it meant 
soon to close. The doctor at the springs believes 
that the bone is injured, slightly depressed on the 
ridge of the tibia, and that certain small splinters 
must be thrown out. It will take a fortnight more 
to heal ; but he assures me there is no danger. I 
am pinned down here till October 6. Therefore, 


if you have anything to write to me, you can send 
your letter from Angoulême up to the ist, 
reckoning six days for delivery. 

You were mistaken in imagining I wished to 
write for twenty minds only. I was speaking 
of certain things, and not of everything. 

Horses, carriages (the tilbury excepted), all 
have been sold, and the servants discharged. My 
expenses in Paris are limited now to my rent, 
interest on money amounting to eighty-nine francs 
a quarter, and a cook for my mother. 

You see, I shall not spend more than three 
hundred francs a month. I am going to capitalise, 
to pay off the loan raised by my mother. There 
is prudence ! 

How completely you misjudge me in believ- 
ing that I should not be able to give myself en- 
tirely to the affection which you describe as manly, 
and in condemning me to the society of the woman 
whom you imagine to be here, and whom you 
describe after your own fancy ! You have been 
unjust in many of the things you have imagined 
about me. I, sold to a party for the sake of any 
woman ! — you cannot believe it of me. 

I look upon all pleasure as degrading, and as 
tainted that does not rise from and return to the 
heart ! Oh ! you owe me many amends ! I have 

Y 2 


not had the thoughts you credit me with. I have 
a horror of all that trenches on seduction, because 
it is contrary to all that is pure and true in senti- 
ment. Out of the works of my imagination you 
have created monsters. One has to accept the disad- 
vantages of a faculty along with its advantages. I 
entreat you to endeavour to understand me better. 

You place much more importance than I 
do on the frivolous pleasure of driving rapidly 
to the Bois. This is a mere fantaisie d'artiste, a 
childish whim. My rooms are a pleasure to me, 
a necessity, like that of having clean linen or 
of bathing. I have acquired the right to have 
silk hangings, because to-morrow, if need were, I 
could return without a regret to the artists garret, 
the empty garret, rather than give my counten- 
ance to anything to be ashamed of, rather than 
sell myself at any price. Oh, do not calumniate 
a soul who loves you, and who thinks of you in 
his moments of heaviness ! Do you believe that 
I would quit the world of ideas, and give up the 
chance of becoming a man of a European fame, 
for the political world, if I did not feel that I could 
do something that is great, that I could serve my 
country ? 

Do believe that I am not destitute of common 


Do not forget any one, in conveying my re- 
membrances ; not even M. Larreguy, if you see him ; 
and make the speeches I ought to make to neigh- 
bours and to everybody, not forgetting M. Berges, 
my electoral guide. 

A thousand kind things and a grip of the hand 
to M. Carraud. The ' Voyage à Java ' will ap- 
pear in November ; M. Grand- Besançon will re- 
ceive the number of the ' Revue/ in which it will 
appear. Find here all that is yours within my 
soul, and all that is good in 

Your Honoré. 

To Madame de Balzac at Pans. 

Aix : September 30, (midday). 

I have your last letter of the 25th, and I can 
answer it before the courier leaves — I have only a 

I beg of you, my dear mother, in the name of 
my heavy work, never to write to me that such a 
work is good, and such another bad ; you upset 
me for a fortnight. 

You have not taken in good part something 
I said to you ; you do not understand my heart 
and affection. 

I am more disturbed by this than by anything 


else ! When will you repose quietly on the 
hearts of your children ? 

• • 

I cannot send you any power of attorney : in 
the first place, there are no French stamps for it 
to be had in Savoy ; next, you do not send me a 
draught of the form. Have the case adjourned, if 
you cannot settle it otherwise, and send me a form 
by return of post, poste restante Geneva. I can 
go and write the power at Ferney, which is in 
France, and quite close to Geneva. 

Gosselin's letter was of the highest import- 
ance, and I am very vexed at having no news 
from Mame, to whom I am writing by this post 
(this letter-writing kills me!) Gosselin has no 
more copies left of the ' Contes philosophiques/ 
and very soon you will receive from him, when 
the bargain is concluded, in accordance with the 
replies I am expecting, two thousand seven hun- 
dred francs in cash, I hope. 

So that my account will be proved correct. 
Without reference to the third edition of the 
' Scènes/ which is impending, there will still be : 


Six months certain of the ' Revue ' . . 3,000 

Third edition of the * Romans et Contes 

philosophiques' 2,700 

Second dizain (1500 copies, 1 fr. 50 c) . 2,200 

'La Bataille' 1,800 

Total 9,700 


I shall therefore soon be ahead of my 
affairs ! 

You will receive instructions about the method 
in which you are to receive Barbier's three thousand 
francs, for the reprints of the ' Contes/ of ' Les 
Chouans/ of ' La Bataille/ and of the ' Médecin/ 
for which I shall stipulate with him. 

A thousand tender caresses and a kiss. 

Don't forget anything I have charged you with 
in my letters. 

From Geneva to Genoa, from Genoa to Naples, 
from Naples to Rome ; but I shall write to you 
when I send the ' Médecin de Campagne.' 

To M. Marne, Bookseller and Editor, Paris. 

Aix : September 30, Sunday, 1832. 

My dear Monsieur Marne, — I have just re- 
ceived a letter from your nephew-in-law, regarding 
a third edition of my ' Romans et Contes philoso- 
phiques/ of which the fourth volume is about to 
appear. I n pursuance of my present intention, to 
which I am resolved to adhere, of giving you the 
publication of all my works, I will not reply with- 
out consulting you. 

Gosselin informs me he has only one hundred 
and fifty copies left of the three first volumes ; and, 


like a cunning publisher, he wants to make sure 
of a contract for a third edition of six hundred 
before he knows whether he is to keep them at 
twenty-two francs fifty centimes in case of refusal, 
or to give them up with the usual discount, if he 
makes a new contract, for he foresees that when 
the sale of the fourth volume commences they 
will be all cleared off. 

He offers me two thousand francs in bills, 
whereas I want one franc fifty centimes on the 
three volumes, which would make two thousand 
seven hundred francs in cash. No doubt we shall 
come to terms. But if I refuse, he will keep not 
only the one franc fifty centimes on the three 
volumes, but the seventeen hundred and fifty 
copies of the fourth volume. 

Then I owe him, in all fairness, ' Le Marquis 
de Carabas ' and a romance (a first edition, the 
number of which is not yet fixed). I should be 
disposed, therefore, to let him have this first im- 
pression, which would not exceed in the number 
of copies of the first edition of the 4 Marquis de 
Carabas/ and let him sell the whole. 

I shall only bring you these six volumes in 
8vo. when completed, supplemented by two new 
volumes of the 'Contes philosophiques/ which 
will make up eight volumes, and this will be for 


the winter of 1 833-1 834, to the best of my calcu- 

I requested your nephew to answer me an 
important question before I gave him my answer. 
Therefore, write to me by return of post, and direct 
your letter to Geneva poste restante. This im- 
portant question is to enquire how many copies 
remain of a third edition of the ' Contes philoso- 
phiques ' in two volumes 8vo., without counting 
1 La Peau de Chagrin,' which was printed for the 
publishers who had the first edition of ' La Peau/ 
I think my reasons are good and for our mutual 
interest, and I do not think these small editions 
will injure the complete one I wish to prepare. 

This subject is now exhausted ; let us pass to 

My mother will soon receive, if she have not 
already received, a manuscript work complete / by 
me, entitled i Le Médecin de Campagne/ which is 
intended for you. Now mark, with twofold atten- 
tion, Master Mame! I have long been struck 
with the popularity which consists in selling many 
thousands of cheap copies in one small volume in 
1 8mo. of works like ' Atala/ ' Paul and Virginia, 
1 The Vicar of Wakefield/ ' Manon Lescaut/ 
' Perrault/ &c, &c, and I desire the same for 
myself. The numbers sold make up for there 


being only one volume ; but the book must be one 
that may be put in the hands of all — the young 
maiden, the child, the old man, and even of the 
devout female. Then, by the time the book has 
become known, which may be long or short, 
according to the talent of the author, and that of 
the publisher, such a book becomes an important 
property, as, for example, ' Les Méditations,' by 
Lamartine, the sale of which amounted to sixty 
thousand copies ; Volney's ' Ruines/ &c. 

My book, then, is a work conceived in this 
spirit, a work which the portress of a convent and 
the great lady may read alike. I have taken the 
New Testament and the Catechism, two books 
of excellent teaching, and I have founded mine 
upon them. I have placed the scene in a village ; 
— however, you will read it all at once — a very rare 
thing with me. There are three reasons why I 
do not put my name to it : the first is, that I can- 
not conscientiously do so; and I am, and will 
remain, in spite of all calumnies to the con- 
trary, a man of honour always. I have entered 
into an engagement with Gosselin ; the second 
reason is, that the fourth volume of the ' Contes ' 
is about to appear, that ' La Bataille ' will appear 
likewise, and I do not wish to have three publica- 
tions going on at the same time, to say nothing of 


1 Les Chouans ' ; the third is, that I shall put my 
name to it when the book has made its mark and 
has come to the second edition. However, I have 
no objection to your letting it be quietly under- 
stood that it is mine. You may let the news- 
papers assert the fact ; and, moreover, I have 
affixed an epigraph signed by my name. 

Now I want one franc on each copy, and I will 
allow you an edition of thirteen hundred. Put the 
book at as low a price as possible. The reason why 
I want a thousand francs, is that I am going off 
to Italy, and I want to earn the expenses of my 
journey. If this proposal pleases you, when you 
have read the book, have it printed by Barbier 
(Rue des Marais), who has a mechanical press, 
and I wish I could regain my interest in the 
same ! l Now this edition, that of the ' Chouans,' 
and that of the three volumes of the ' Contes 
philosophiques/ that of ' La Bataille/ &c, will 
repay my travelling expenses. The volume will 
contain from two hundred and sixteen to two 
hundred and twenty pages, that is from six to 
seven sheets in i8mo. with no other embellish- 
ment than good paper and clear type. Now 
it must be printed in pica. Barbier is sure to 
have six sheets of pica ; he can set up the whole 

1 Barbier was the purchaser of Balzac's printing establishment. 


in a couple of days, and you can send me the 
entire work set up in ' slips ' by the diligence to 
Ferney, bureau restant, so that all may be finished 
with as little delay as possible, I shall be at 
Geneva until October 1 5 ; and I will then send 
you back your volume two days after it comes 
to hand, with the order to go to press, and I will 
not touch it again. If this affair succeeds — and 
it will succeed, because I can give you the means 
of commanding a sale by getting you the support 
of the ' Journal des Connaissances Utiles,' be- 
longing to my friend Girardin, who issues as 
many as a hundred thousand copies, and my book 
being exactly within the scope of his periodical — 
he will do us this good service ; if, therefore, we 
obtain the success I look for, we should still keep 
to the one franc for me, and my mother will be em- 
powered to authorise the printing of the several 
editions. Supported by the notices and advertise- 
ments in Emile de Girardin's paper, and by ad- 
vertising in some of the other papers, this will be 
a good undertaking for both of us. But before 
you can see this as clearly as I do, you must read 
the book. If you can clearly prove to me that one 
franc a volume is too much {which I do not think 
it is), we would make it seventy-five centimes ; but 
you must let me have a thousand francs, and 


pay them in to M. de Rothschild, who will give 
you a letter of credit for me drawn on his house 
at Naples : I will tell you when I send back the 
proofs of the volume, where to address your letters, 
and you can repay yourself by printing more 

You see that I am not ungrateful for your 
readiness to serve me, and more especially for 
your not harassing me about thé 'Chouans/ 
which you will receive corrected, along with the 
return of the proofs of the ' Médecin/ 

I am working night and day, and I do not 
wish to be annoyed either by Gosselin or Boul- 
land. Consequently, I shall not return to Paris 
till I am quit of my liabilities, that I may be a 
slave to nobody. 

Nevertheless, you, Mame, shall have your 
three volumes in 8vo. shortly; two, entitled 
' Études de Femmes/ the third ' Conversations 
entre Onze Heures et Minuit/ And in the first 
place, before all things, let me inform you that, in 
case of a third edition of the ' Scènes/ I shall 
suppress ' Le Conseil/ also ' Le Devoir dune 
Femme/ in the third volume, and fill their places 
with a new ' scène/ which will appear in the 
1 Revue de Paris/ and will be more suitable to 
the nature of the 'Scènes de la Vie privée/ 


than ' Le Conseil ' and ' Le Devoir d'une Femme/ 
which I consider not quite consonant with the 
moral intention of that work. 

So advise me well before hand when this 
second edition will come out ; as if there were a 
necessity, I would not send the new ' scène * 
to the ' Revue de Paris/ but would let you have 
it at once. 

Lastly, as we are to reprint the ' Romans et 
Contes/ I shall withdraw from that work ' Études 
de Femmes/ and ' Sarrazine/ which I do not regard 
as philosophical and will replace them by a new 
tale, which I have quite ready. In that case 
the ' Études de Femmes ' would be completed ; 
to which I should give a new title : ' Sarrazine/ 
the two tales in * Le Conseil/ ' the Message/ 
4 La Grande Brétèche, ' Le Devoir d'une 
Femme/ ' La Transaction/ all thoroughly re- 
written and corrected, and several other things, 
which you will read in the ' Revue/ such as ' La 
Femme abandonnée/ and other articles, which I 
shall keep back, in order to have some unpub- 
lished work on hand. 

As soon as the fourth volume of my ' Contes 
philosophiques ' shall be exhausted, I shall with- 
draw ' Madame Firmiani/ three sheets, there will 
be nothing to put in its place, twenty-four sheets 


being quite enough. Thus, then, * Le Médecin 
de Campagne/ ' Les Chouans/ ' Les Études de 
Femmes/ ' Les Conversations entre Onze Heures 
et Minuit/ and the third edition of the 'Scenes' 
will enable you to wait patiently for the ' Physio- 
logie du Mariage/ (about which I am still at law), 
to include with my other works ; your ' Trois 
Cardinaux/ the second edition of ' La Bataille/ 
and the eight volumes of the 'Contes philoso- 

You see that I do not lose sight of you. But 
my manuscript is the best proof of that It will 
be a profitable affair for us both. 

I have not yet received your answer to the 
letter I lately wrote to you. 

Important notice: The 'Gazette' and the 
1 Quotidienne ' are the only newspapers admitted 
here, into Russia, and into Italy, &c. Always 
advertise in them. 

A thousand compliments. Remember me to 
Madame Mame and to Mademoiselle Clémentine. 
And let us live in the hope of publishing a fine 
edition of my works in twenty-four volumes, when 
I have made my reputation in the Chamber of 

A thousand friendly things. 

My election is a settled thing among the 


leaders of the Royalist party, in the event of a 
general election. 

To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

x Annecy : October 9, 1832. 

My dear loved Mother, — You will find en- 
closed the MS. of ' Une Lettre à Nodier,' which is 
intended as an article for the ' Revue de Paris.' 

You will beg M. Pichot to come and see you, 

and you will give him twenty-four hours in which 

to read this article and make up his mind if he will 

insert it exactly as it is in the ' Revue ; ' I hope he 

may accept it, because it would make a variety in 

our articles. As the letter is very complimentary 

to Nodier and to the ' Revue,' I have no doubt 

Pichot will accept it : in which case / shall not 

require any proofs ; only you must get them to 

compare it with the original, and then withdraw 

the manuscript In this case, the Letter should be 

published immediately and before ' Les Orphelins,' 

which M. Pichot could keep till the month of 


You will receive by a lady who is starting 
for Paris, the complete MS. of ' Le Médecin de 
Campagne,' with instructions for Marne, and in a 
short time (I am only waiting for my books from 
Sache, and for the one I asked you to send me), 


to finish the second dizain of the 'Contes dro- 
latiques ' for Gosselin. 

As to ' La Bataille/ I am waiting for M. Dieu- 
louard's answer, who little knows what it is to 
write a book, and then the ' Revue ' will be pro- 
vided for until December, because I shall send, 
with the corrected proof of the ' Orphelins,' an 
article for November, all corrected, along with the 
manuscript for December. 

The articles for January and February are 
each of them half planned and written; there 
remains little to be done. 

I hope, my much loved mother, you will not 
let yourself grow dejected. I work as hard as 
it is possible for a man to work ; a day is only 
twelve hours long, I can do no more. 

I will send another article to the ' Rénovateur ' ; 
for, at the next assembling of the Chamber, I 
intend to be a Deputy. Farewell, my darl- 
ing mother ; I am very tired ! Coffee hurts my 
stomach. For the last twenty days I have taken 
no rest ; and yet I must still work on, that I may 
remove your anxieties. A good kiss full of ten- 
der affection. 

vol. 1. 


To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

Geneva : October 16, 1&32. 

My dear Mother,— Your son would like it to 
be understood by his mother, that whatever she 
may ask is granted beforehand, and that he would 
be happy if he could guess her desires. I don't 
know what you mean by your goat, but have as 
many goats as you please. 

You must appeal in the action on the ' Physio- 
logie/ if the copies have not been withdrawn from 
circulation, and you must ascertain the fact. 

As a favour, and in the name of fair dealing, 
send me the beginning of the ' Bons Propos des 
Religieuses de Poissy/ which Gosselin is detaining ; 
I must have it by return of post. My second 
dizain is more than half finished. Mame will 
have two good octavo volumes, which will please 
him ; and c La Bataille ' will soon be ready. I 
have worked like a demon, for I am anxious to 
pay everybody before six months are over. I 
should much like to know if Mame is pressed 
for the ' Chouans.' 

Reckoning everything, I ought to have a 
thousand francs to go to Italy. Unless something 
unforeseen occurs, I shall return into Touraine 
by a charming route at the end of October. It is 



there that I intend to correct the proofs of ' La 
Bataille.' You must get me, from Merlin, or some 
other old bookseller, the works of Tabourot, 
seigneur des Accords, and send them to me with 
urgent speed. There are several titles by which 
the work is known. Merlin will tell you them, or 
better still, you will find them mentioned in the 
' Biographie Universelle/ under the article Ta- 
bourot. I must positively have them. I think 
the principal work is ' Les Coq à l'âne,' ' Les 
Touches/ c Les Contre-petteries du Seigneur des 
Accords ; ' I do not well remember. And now, 
my dear beloved mother, you will find enclosed 
in this letter two pieces of flannel, which I have 
worn over my stomach, and which you must 
take to M. Chapelain. Begin by having the 
piece marked No. i submitted to examination. 
Let the question be asked, where is the seat of 
the disease ? and what is the course of treat- 
ment to be followed. Have the reason of every- 
thing explained, the why and the wherefore of 
everything, and everything stated in full detail. 
Next for No. 2, ask the reason why the blister 
was ordered in the preceding consultation, and 
post the answer on the same day you have 
the consultation, and consult as soon as you 
receive my letter. Take care to carry the 

z 2 


flannels wrapt in paper, that the emanations may 
not be affected. 

Answer me as to all I have asked concerning 
Pichot and the ' Revue/ point by point Let 
them send to me here the number of the reviews 
in which my articles have appeared, independently 
of the numbers I received in Paris for my collec- 
tion. Entreat Éverat, the printer, to give me a 
'Déburau/ 1 and add it to my parcel. He will 
know what this means. 

Has Laura forgotten me? 

Farewell, for I have delayed writing up to the 
last moment for the post on account of the pieces 
of flannel. We only get our letters on Tuesday, 
Friday and Sunday, which occasions delay. I 
embrace you from my heart with an outpouring 
of tenderness. 

I forgot to say, seal up the ' consultations/ and 
address them, writing outside the envelope, ' To 
Madame de Castries/ Write the address your- 
self, but have the letter sealed by M. Chapelain. 

1 An article by Jules Janin, on the celebrated pantomimist of 
that name. 



To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

Geneva : October, 1832. 

My very dear Mother, — It is advisable I 

should return to France for three months. In 

spite of the kindness of the Rothschilds and the 

Embassies, it would be impossible from so great 

a distance to print the ' Médecin de Campagne/ 

1 La Bataille,' the Second Part of the ' Contes 

drolatiques/ and the ' Etudes de Femmes/ The 

third edition of the 'Scènes de la Vie privée' 

is exhausted ; I wish to profit by this to cut out 

two scenes, and to add a new one more moral 

than those I shall omit 

I have also an alteration of the ' Contes philo- 
sophiques ' in view for the fourth edition, which I 

shall do sometime in April. 

Then, I must think about the articles for the 
4 Revue/ and leave them all ready on my de- 
parture. Besides, my travelling companions will 
not be at Naples till February. 

I shall, therefore, come back, but not to Paris : 
my return will not be known to anyone ; and I 
shall start again for Naples in February, via 
Marseilles and the steamer. 

I shall be more at rest on the subjects of 
money and my literary obligations. I shall have 


money enough to pay all, and nobody will have a 
claim upon me for a line. 

I have sent the thousand francs to Naples, 
less a hundred which I wanted. 

I shall settle this with Mame, to whom I am 
bringing a fine work — at least I hope so. 

I do not know yet where I shall go ; but do 
not speak of my return to anyone, except to Laura 
and to Surville. 

I am greatly annoyed with M. Laurentie, but 
much pleased with Pichot about the ' Lettre à 
Nodier.' 'Les Orphelins ' is at the printers, and 
there will be a prosperous month of November. 

Pay nothing further to the tailor. Let the 
money from the ' Revue de Paris ' accumulate for 
a capital. I start this evening, but I am not sure 
where I shall go, for I break my journey at Dijon, 
where I shall sleep. Adieu ! good mother, a 
thousand loving things. 

To Madame de Balzac, Paris. 

Nemours : November 5, 1832. 

My very dear Mother, — Keep your house ; I 
had already sent an answer to Laura, I will not 
let either you or Surville bear the burden of my 


However, until the arrival of my proxy, it 
is understood that Laura, who is my cash keeper, 
will remit you a hundred and fifty francs a month. 
You may reckon on this as a regular payment ; 
nothing in the world will take precedence of it. 
Then, at the end of November, to December 10 
you will have the surplus of the thirty-six thousand 
francs to reimburse you for the excess of the 
expenditure over the receipts during the time of 
your stewardship ; during which, thanks to your 
devotion, you gave me all the tranquillity that 
was possible. 

Laura tells me you can find a tenant for your 
house, at two thousand five hundred francs, it 
would not be a bad plan to make him pay the 

I thank you heartily, dear mother, for all you 
wish to do for me; if I was less overwhelmed 
with work, I could say more, but time will be my 

Adieu, I embrace you with all my soul, and 
I desire that you may arrange a peaceful and 
quiet life for yourself; for my part, I do not wish 
in the future to cause you annoyances or cares of 
any kind. 

Make out the account soon, so that what is a 
business affair, may be settled without delay. 


As to personal troubles, I shall scarcely give 
you any, if you will not doubt my heart, for I 
shall be a long time absent 

A thousand kind things. 

Has nota china vase come for me ? 

Paris : the end of 1832. 

Oh ! my dear mother. I shed tears of joy 
over your letter ! Yes, certainly ; everything you 
desire ! I have never felt so happy. My God, 
I did not expect the happiness of being able to 
afford you a few happy moments on my own 
account ! 

This evening, between five and six, I shall be 
with you — and we will dine together — -not to-day, 
but on Saturday. A thousand tender caresses, 
my beloved mother. I want you to find my kiss 
written here when you arrive. 

Your devoted Son, 


In less than seven or eight months from this 
time, I will make you so happy that you shall feel 
quite well ! 


To M. Charles Gosselin, Publisher, Paris. 

Paris : 1833 

I participate, sir, in the pleasure you must feel 
at the happy accouchement of Madame Gosselin, 
and I am sorry for the annoyances ' Louis 
Lambert ' has caused you. I do not reply to your 
last observations, because it would be intermin- 
able. And if I feel acutely the things that wound 
me, I can also sometimes forget them. 

I have the honour to inform you, in order that 
there may not be a double delivery, that I am 
sending out of the hundred and twenty-five copies 
of the mechanical paper — a copy to each of the 
following persons : 

MM. N isard, Béquet, Amédée Pichot, Mévil 
Ballanche, Phillippon, De Briant, A. Berthier, 
Cazalès, Charles Nodier, Coste, O'Reilly (of the 
' Temps '), Marne, Chasles, Rabou. I shall also 
send to all the provincial newspapers. 

I undertake to bear the expense of this, ac- 
cording to your request ; and I beg that you will 
not forget the advertisements in ' La Quotidienne ' 
and the ' Gazette/ 

As to the letter you expected from M. Surville, 
I am astonished that it has not yet reached you ; 


for I sent a satisfactory reply to M. Surville about 
your propositions. But I know he is much oc- 

Pray present my congratulations to Madame 
Gosselin, and accept yourself the assurance of my 
highest consideration. 

Madame de Balzac, my mother, has no copy 
of Volume IV. of the ' Romans et Contes philoso- 
phiques/ will you send me one, placing it to my 
account ? 

To Madame Zulma Carraud, Angoulcme. 

Paris : Jan. 25, 1833. 

1 Juana ' l has made me ill, you will have read 
it ere this. The illness was simply that I had 
to wait for the frame of mind in which I felt it 
possible to write this story. It has produced a 
great effect. I wrote it, as I wrote ' La Gréna- 
dière/ in a single night. 

Sorrows of all kinds are taking their usual 
course, binding themselves tightly into my life by 
a thousand ligaments. 

Borget 2 is now, as you know, in the Rue 
Cassini. I thank you much for having given 
me so good a friend. He has a soul which is 

1 Juana, the first title of part of Mar ana. 

9 Borget and Balzac shared at this time the same lodgings. 


like that of a brother to my own, full of those 
delicacies of feeling which I adore, and I hope I 
may be for him all that he is for me. I cannot 
leave here till after February 1 5 ; but if you could 
hasten your departure by a few days, and if I 
were to delay mine, I might join you at Frapesle. 
I have the greatest desire to see the Cathedral of 

Thanks for your kind letter. You are quite 
right on all points in your opinion of * Faust ; ' but 
there is poetry in it which you have not perceived, 
and about which we will talk some day : after- 
wards you shall read the work again, and under 
the influence of another thought, you will see it 
all in another aspect. As to ' Lambert/ you will 
before long receive a small parcel through M. 
Sazerac, which will contain my offering. A copy 
is in existence for you, printed on Chinese paper, 
and at this moment the best artists in book-bind- 
ing are employed in rendering this copy worthy 
of you. I entreat you never to lend it to anyone. 

You know that when you work in tapestry, 
each stitch is a thought Well, each line in this 
new work has been for me an abyss. It contains 
things that are secrets between it and me. . . . 
Take great care of it, I will send you a common 
copy, which you can lend, that is if you should 


feel disposed to lend it to others. The work is 
now much more complete than it was, more filled 
in, the style is better, may it one day become a 
monument to me! Some days hence, you will 
receive the second dizain of the ' Drolatiques,' then 
' Le Médecin de Campagne,' two works which, 
added to ' L'historié Intellectuelle de Louis Lam- 
bert,' ought to raise me out of my pagehood 
(me mettre /tors de page). 

M. Naquart fears some mischief is setting up 
in my brain, from so much bitter hard work. At 
the end of February my connection with the 
' Revue ' will cease ; after that I shall not write 
for any journal, except for enormous pay, because 
it is this newspaper writing which knocks me 
down. I once thought of addressing a letter to 
you, and inserting it in ' Louis Lambert ' as l'envoi, 
but it seemed to me not worth while. This copy 
will be better with the hidden grace of its secret. 
Your soft hands will enjoy turning over the leaves 
of this book ; may its contents be equally pleasing 
to your soul ! Adieu ! then. You will write me a 
line, — am I to come to Angoulême ? am I to come 
to Frapesle ? and say for me a thousand friendly 
things to the Commandant, whatever you think 
proper to your neighbours, and a remembrance 
to my lovely sweetheart; as for yourself, you 


know best whether I can write anything worthy 
of the millionth part of the good gentle thoughts 
you inspire. 

To Madame Zultna Carraud, at Frapesle. 

Paris : Saturday, May 26, 1833. 

Madame, — I am divided whether to thank 
you, or — to scold you ; I will do both in the same 

I have received the carpet, it gives a royal 
aspect to my study : to me, who know the giver, 
how priceless is that carpet ! Also I have received 
the tea service. It is graceful and lovely, and can 
be admired by all because it can be seen by all : 
though I would prefer that it should be seen by 
myself alone. 

We are both fortunate, you and I. You to have 
given me an object which I am glad to possess, 
and I am fortunate to receive it at your hands. 

I must tell you I am buried under a mountain 
of work. My life alternates mechanically : I go to 
bed at six or seven in the evening, like the fowls ; 
at one in the morning I am awakened, and I 
work till eight ; at eight o'clock I sleep again for 
an hour and half ; then I take some slight refresh- 
ment and a cup of pure coffee ; and then I put 
myself once more in harness, and work till four 


in the afternoon ; then I receive visitors, take a 
bath, or go out ; and, after dinner, I go to bed. 
This is the life I must lead for some months to 
come, if I would not be overwhelmed by my 

Profits come in slowly : debts are inexorable 
and remorseless. I am now in the certain road 
to make a fortune, but I must wait and work yet 
three years. 

I must re-write, and again revise, to put my 
works into a monumental condition ; a thankless 
labour, counting for nothing and of no immediate 

I want my liberty, my independence moral and 
pecuniary, for this object I sacrifice everything, 
without regret. Only I must defer going to see 
you, and that I cannot help regretting. One thing 
is certain, after all this labour, the most entire rest 
will be necessary. I shall go to seek it either at 
Angoulême or in Berry, but it must be in the 
country. Perhaps I may go to the waters at Aix, 
on my own account, for that however I must have 
the opinion of M. Nacquart. 

But as rest will be necessary to me, the repose 
of a den, I must thank you once more for your 
indulgence towards my darling whims, the craving 
for elegance and grace in my surroundings. How 


much poetry there is in you, and how much 
thoughtfulness also; two things which, on the 
surface, seem incompatible. 

Of the two observations you make upon 
'Juana/ one I will not discuss, it is a point 
irrevocably decided ; on the other, we will say the 
same thing : given the same latitude, the Islander 
has the advantage over the native of the continent. 
Granted that Napoleon was educated in France, 
that did not destroy his insular mind. 

All the workmen in Paris are being driven to 
their wits end to find, what would seem to be the 
easiest thing in the world — a box to hold your 
copy of ' Louis Lambert/ I hope, however, it will 
be ready by Tuesday next, and then you will 
receive it on Sunday the 17th, if the diligence 
does its duty. 

There are still many faults in this * Louis 
Lambert' How much pains and trouble this 
work will have cost me ; it frightens one to think 
of it. It is the same with the ' Peau de Chagrin ; ' 
the forthcoming edition will, I hope, be as perfect 
as a human work can be made. Work, and the 
thoughts of this narrow round of existence, have 
absorbed everything. I work too hard ; and I am 
too much worried with other things to be able to 
pay attention to those sorrows which sleep and 


make their nest in the heart. It may be that I 
shall lose the habit of estimating women as I do, 
and I shall come to the end of life, without having 
realised the hopes I entertained from them. 

Farewell — pardon the brevity of this letter. 
You will divine all I do not express ; but one thing 
you can never know fully, and that is, how 
intensely I desire to be at the Poudrerie in peace 
and quietness, and with you. Farewell once more, 
a thousand amiable things to M. Carraud, farewell 
— how I wish I could say, i à demain, we will have 
breakfast together.' 

To M. Edmond Werdet, Publisher, Paris. 

Paris : March 4, 1833. 

When you, sir, came to see me the other day, 
my head was preoccupied with work distasteful 
to my imagination, and I could only imperfectly 
understand what you wanted of me. 

My head is more free to-day ; will you do me 
the pleasure to come and see me at fpur o'clock, 
and we can then talk. 

Mille civilités. 


To M. Amédée Pic hot, Editor of the 
' Revue de Paris/ 

Paris : March 1833. 

Sir, — According to the proof sheets, which I 
received this morning with the ' Revue/ the para- 
graph 3 of ' Ferragus * makes twenty-five pages ; 
the paragraph 4 ought to do the same. I warn 
you of this, because in that case the next number 
would hardly be more than fourteen pages, if even 
so much. 

In the interest of the * Revue/ I am setting to 
work to write the last paragraph. It is a great 
sacrifice on my part ; but if I leave the ' Revue/ I 
wish to give no cause for complaint. 

Now for business. I wish to meet you on 
Monday at three o'clock, at the office of the 
' Revue/ in order to settle the six months' account. 
I scarcely owe sixty pages ; according to my own 
calculations, I have given a hundred. The month 
of March (excepting the subscription accounts and 
carriage of proofs, which cannot be much), will be 
owing to me. I wish you to be there to settle 
the rather disgraceful haggling which there has 
been about some of the lines and blank spaces, 
&c. I am always easy to deal with ; but the last 
time I settled accounts, in December 1831, I was 

vol. 1. A A 


abominably treated. This matter settled, it would 
be nothing extraordinary for the ' Revue ' to join 
March and April together, and to give me a 
thousand francs ; for if I am occupied all this week 
with the ' Revue/ I ought to be treated with some 

I am not asking any great favour, seeing that 
the article written on the ' Théorie de la Démarche ' 
has thirty-two pages, and I have almost entirely 
corrected them, except a few scientific additions, 
which are still wanting. I shall have also for 
April 14 the twenty pages on the Salon, 1 and the 
* Théorie de la Démarche ' shall have a second 

We will settle accounts of this string of ar- 
ticles when the whole of the ' Théorie ' shall have 
appeared, which will take us on to" May. Then 
the * Revue ' will be my debtor, and we shall 
both be free — I to ask a great deal, 'La Revue* to 
refuse, and we shall separate ; I, with the certainty 
of having always acted in the most generous and 
courteous manner, and ' La Revue * will have no 
right to do me an ill turn either in words or in 
articles. 2 

1 This article on the Salon was never written. 

3 In consequence of this explanation Balzac ceased to write for 
the Revue de Paris. The Théorie de la Démarche appeared in 
ï Europe littéraire. 


Have the goodness to send a word of reply 
about our rendezvous for to-morrow at three 
o'clock, as I shall have to quit writing your 
copy, which will, I hope, be all sent in by 

Accept my compliments. 

To Madame Zulma Car r and ^ Angoulême. 

Paris : 1833. 

God knows I would gladly be at the Poudrerie. 
But how ? I have not one volume yet printed 
ôf the new edition of the ' Chouans.' I have still 
twelve to thirteen sheets of the ' Médecin de Cam- 
pagne ' to finish ; and I have to furnish this month 
a hundred pages to the ' Revue/ To accomplish 
all this, am I not obliged to stay in Paris ? Then, 
in money matters, difficulties grow, because ones 
needs are regular, whilst receipts are as anomalous 
as if they were comets ! 

Certainly I hope to be at the Poudrerie on 
March 10. I want a good month of solitude to 
finish this ' Bataille/ which worries me much. I 
forgot the second issue of the ' Drolatiques/ for 
which I have still two tales to write, of which one 
is the greater part of the volume. 

I assure you I live in an atmosphere of thoughts, 

a a 2 


ideas, plans, work, and conceptions, which cross 
each other, and boil and bubble in my head enough 
to madden me ! Nevertheless, I do not grow thin. 
I am, as to the body, le plus vrai pourtraict de 
moine, qui oncques ait été vu — depuis V extrême 
heure des couvents. 

As regards my soul, I am profoundly sad. 
My work alone keeps me alive. Will there never 
then be a woman for me in this world ? My fits of 
despondency and bodily weariness come upon me 
more frequently, and weigh upon me more heavily ; 
to sink under this crushing load of fruitless labour, 
without ever having near me the gentle caressing 
presence of woman, for whom I have worked so 
much ! 

But let us leave all that. I have yet to thank 
you for all the trouble you took about my dinner- 
service, and for all the good things you say to me. 
Your letters always produce on me the effect of 
those lovely flowers, the perfume of which exhila- 
rates and soothes. 

I know nothing about Madame de St. S , 

no more than I do of many other women, who 
pretend that I am their lover, and of whom I 
know neither the name nor the face. When in 
Angoulême, I saw no one. I only know you and 
the persons I met at your house. 


We have eaten your pâté with a sacred reve- 
irence, thinking naturally of you in our hearts, as 
you may imagine- ' Le Médecin de Campagne ' 
has cost me ten times more trouble and labour than 
even ' Lambert/ There is not a phrase nor an 
idea which has not been considered, read, re-read, 
and corrected. It is frightful to think of. But 
when one desires to attain to the simple beauty 
of the Gospels, and to put in practice the 
1 Imitation* of Thomas à Kempis, one has need 
to dig, and delve, and go over one's ground 
often ! 

Adieu for the present ! I hope to see you 
soon. The delay is no fault of mine. 

Hasten the people about my dinner-service. 
I have a dinner party to give, and I know not 
how soon. As to the cups, I should like them of 
a simple and elegant form. The dessert-plates, as 
you know, should be more elaborately ornamented 
than the others. 

I send you herewith my cypher, 1 for their 

1 H.B. with the coronet of a Count 


To M. Guilder t de Pixérécourt, dramatic author ', 


Angoulêrae : April 29, 1833. 

My dear Librarian (for the bargain can be 
made, time aiding, at least if my muse, Necessity, 
does not run away), — I received your amiable 
invitation on the day you were joyously break- 
fasting with your guests ; therefore, it was a 
physical impossibility for me to join that biblio- 
grapho-gastronomic festival ; but I had a presenti- 
ment of it, for on the road travelling to your 
address there is at this moment a properly per- 
fumed pâté de Grobot ; it ought to be very good, 
and very insufficient to repay the debt of kindness 
which always recurs to my memory when I think 
of you. 

A thousand kind compliments. 

To Madame Zulma Carraud 9 Frapesle. 

Paris : Saturday, May 26, 1833. 

1 Thanks, my dear Auguste, a thousand times ! ' 
I charge you, Madame, to say this to Borget, 
with all the accent you know how to place on heart- 
felt expressions. I knew very well that dear Ivan l 
and you would write to me on the road, for you 

1 Ivan was Madme Carraud's eldest son. 



know by sympathy how dear and precious every- 
thing about you is to me. Yes, certainly, it is 
probable I shall come and see you in Berry. As 
if by magic, my power of hard work, my sixteen 
hours a day, has come back to me with greater 
courage and inspiration than I have ever yet 

The 'Médecin de Campagne' is finished. 
You will receive it at Issoudun with the second 
dizain of the 4 Drolatiques/ at the beginning of next 
month. I have only eight days' work of correction 
of proofs. Have no fear, the end is more beautiful, 
to quote her whom you so justly called an angel, 
than the beginning. The work goes crescendo. 

I still continue to suffer the colic, and I am 
promised influenza. 

Vichy waters would, I think, be of service to 
your dear child, but wait for the effect of Frapesle. 
In any case, think about magnetism. My sister 
has been cured of the same illness as Madame 
Ni vet's, by a course of magnetic treatment, through 
the simple action of my mother repeated twice a 
day. It is an indisputable fact. Therefore, mag- 
netise Ivan. 

I did not say good-bye either to you or to the 
Commandant, in order not to awake you ; but I 
was put out at not being able to give you the 


cordial and very sincere, though somewhat melan- 
choly, kiss of farewell. 

When the manuscript of the ' Privilège ' is 
finished, I shall go and see Bourges. 

It has come to saying adieu. You are one of 
the three persons to whom I write — but I can 
only write short letters, with all my proofs and 
work. ' Le Succube ' 1 has been declared grand, 
sublime, gigantic ! I am very glad of the success 
which is predicted for the second dizain. Adieu ! 
once more. Write to me from Frapesle how long 
you will be there. I will come and see you — putting 
my affection for you all out of the question, I should 
still come to refresh my soul in the patriarchate. 
Besides, I shall come for the sake of one of your 
looks of approval ; it will be my best reward for 
this ' Médecin de Campagne/ some of the pages 
of which were inspired by you. Adieu, with 
tenderness and gratitude. 

To Madame Zulma Carraud, Frapesle. 

Paris : 1833. 

I write to you in haste. Only figure to your- 
self I am appointed to the Tribunal of Commerce ; 
but I have declined, especially as I place no de- 

1 One of the Contes Drolatiques. 


pendence on it. Mame demands everything from 
me all at once. 

I am working day and night. The 4 Médecin 
de Campagne ' is finished ; I am satisfied with 
the second volume. 

The 'Chouans' when corrected will be an- 
nounced to him by the huissier (sheriff's officer). 

My attorney assures me I am certain to gain 
my lawsuit, everything being in order on my side. 
It would be too long to give you all the details of 
this tiresome affair, which locks up the thousand 
francs, of which I must supply the place ; luckily 
the third part of the ' Drolatiques ' is finished, and 
with the ' Privilège ' will make up for all ; but it 
is work enough to make one lose one's senses ! 

The ' Médecin ' still requires five or six days 
and nights to revise proofs. The second dizain 
has appeared ; but Gosselin has not yet sent me 
any copies. I will send yours to Angoulême. 

I shall write to-morrow, for the second time, 
to M. Ni vet for what I want, and for my china 
toilet set. 

You must still be ill, as you have only written 
a little scrap. When are you returning to An- 
goulême ? 

I cannot write more now, three sheets of the 
' Médecin ' having been just brought in for me to 


read, and I have besides to correct some slip 
proofs for the conclusion. 

A thousand remembrances to the Commandant 
Piston ; * but I am here under the play of a still 
greater piston, and I shall indeed want a good 
months rest in September. I am sorry not to be 
able to say the hundredth part of the things I 
have to tell you ; but as regards what is in my 
heart, you know it all. 

To M. Charles Gosselin, Publisher, Paris. 

Paris : 1833. 

Sir, — It is impossible for me to leave the cor- 
rection of the third and fourth volumes in 1 8mo. 
of the ' Chouans ' for a single instant, the judg- 
ment of arbitration deeming that I must transmit 
the third to M. Mame on Tuesday, and I am too 
anxious to have nothing more to do with him, to 
fail through delay. Thus I have only just time 
to finish it, and the shortest absence from home 
hinders me much more than a conference at 

Therefore, everyone having business with me 
must obey this necessity. I am free till midnight. 
Nevertheless, Tuesday being only the 17th, there 

1 A name given by Balzac to M. Carraud. 



will still be time between now and the 20th to pay 
the first instalment of my indemnity. 

You can also bestow more reflection on this 
business, which is very important, and of great 
extent as an operation. 

However, if we do not come to an agreement 
on Tuesday, I shall only have a very few moments, 
and it is not my intention to run after anyone, 
understand this. 

Since the letter which I wrote to you, some 
one has already been to request, if you would not 
take the whole of the affair, to be allowed to share 
it with you. I replied that you had already given 
me to understand that it was not your intention to 
act with any publisher. 

I have sixteen copies of the ' Bulletin des 
Lois,' with the Index of the Galiffet edition : I 
should like to exchange them for books. I 
should like the ' Grands Historiens de France,' in 
parts, from Arthus Bertrand, also the ' Mémoires 
de Saint-Sirtion ; ' if this suit you, and also M. 
Renouard, we could arrange this matter. 

Accept my compliments. 

To the Duchesse d 'Abrantès, Versailles. 

Paris : 1833. 

There is nothing to divide us, but seventeen 
hours a day of work, and the physical impossi- 


bility of going anywhere, except to my attorney 
about my lawsuit with Mame, whom I should not 
like to meet at your house. 

You seemed willing last winter to come and 
see me in my den. I then said, ' Come, and we 
will have a gossip/ I am now more oppressed 
than ever by my work. I have to send in an 
historical novel, called ' Le Privilège ' by the end 
of the month ; I have five or six articles promised 
to friends ; in fact, I am walled up in my work. 
Nevertheless, for you, I am quite ready to fix an 
evening when we may be alone, and always 

I do not know if I can be free on Monday, 
but you shall be sure to see me on the day when 
I am not detained by proofs for press. 

To Madame Laure Surville % Monglat. 

Paris : June 1833. 

My dear Laura, — You go away without saying 
1 by your leave ; ' the poor workman runs down to 
your house to have a partaker in a small pleasure, 
and finds no sister ! As I torment you so often 
with my troubles, I must at least write you word 
of this little pleasure. 


You will not laugh at me, you will believe me, 
you will ! 

• ••••• 

I went to call yesterday on Baron Gérard ; 
he presented three German families to me. I 
thought I was dreaming. Three families ! . . . 
Nothing less ! . . . One came from Vienna ; the 
other from Frankfort; the third was Prussian, 
from what part I do not know. 

They confided to me they had come faithfully 
to call on Gérard for a month past, in the hope of 
meeting me, and they told me further, that outside 
the frontier of France my reputation begins (dear 
ungrateful country !) They added, ' Persevere, 
and you will soon be at the head of literary 
Europe ! ' — of Europe, dear sister, they really said 
so ! Flattering families ! 

. • • • • • 

Ma foi ! They were benevolent Germans, and 
I allowed myself to believe that they thought 
what they said ; and to tell the truth, I could have 
listened to them all night. Praise agrees so well 
with us artists. These honest Germans revived 
my courage, and I went away from Gerard's quite 
gaily. I intend to open a triple fire on the public 
and on the envious, to wit : ' Eugénie Grandet/ 
' Les Aventures d'une Idée heureuse/ which you 



know, and my ' Prêtre Catholique/ one of my 
finest subjects. 

The affair of the ' Études de Mœurs ' is going 
on well ; thirty thousand francs as the authors 
share will stop many holes. This block of debts 
once removed out of my road, I shall go to seek 
my reward at Geneva. Thus the horizon begins 
to clear. 

I have again begun my routine of work. I go 
to bed at ten o'clock, with my dinner in my 
mouth — the animal digests and sleeps till mid- 
night. Auguste wakens me with a cup of coffee, 
upon which the mind works without a break till 
noon. I run to the printing-office, to take my 
copy and to bring back my proofs — in order to 
give the animal exercise, and he dreams as he 
walks along. One can put a great deal of black 
upon white in twelve hours, little sister — and by 
the end of a month of this kind of life a good deal 
is accomplished. The poor Pen ! it ought to be 
made of diamond, not to wear out at this rate ! 
To increase its master's reputation — as the Ger- 
mans prescribed — to acquit him of all his debts, 
and finally to earn for him, some day, his repose 
on the mountain side — such is the task for my 

' Que diable allez-vous faire à Monglat ?' Of 


course, you are free to go there, and I do not 
reproach you. I only ask from a curiosity which 
may be pardoned between brother and sister. 

Addio! addio! correct 'Le Médecin* care- 
fully : mark all the passages which you think 
weak, and mets les grands pots dans les petits — that 

is to say, if a thing can be said in one line instead 
of two, try to say it. 

To M. Forfellier, chief Editor of the ' Écho de 

la jeune France/ 

Paris : June 1833, 

Sir, — There are some false assertions in your 
note (relative to the publication of the ' Duchesse 
de Langeais ' in the ' Écho de la jeune France ') ; 
if you publish it, I shall answer it. 

If it enters the region of personality, I shall 
demand satisfaction, and I will have it. 

You know that your two hundred francs are 
all ready. The scandal which you are seeking will 
oblige me to take a decided course with you. 

Lastly, I must repeat that you transgress all 
laws, not only of politeness but of uprightness, in 
refusing to recognise that I never conceded more 
to you than the use of my article. 

Your servant. 


To Madame Zulma Carraud, Angoulême. 

Paris : August 2, 1833. 

I answer you at once, under the influence of the 
emotions caused by your letter. You are suffer- 
ing ! Think of me, think of magnetism, which is 
no illusion. I would travel a hundred leagues to 
save you two days' pain. You do not know how 
faithful and exclusive and devoted I am in friend- 
ship ! Do not fancy that because I am able to 
traverse all the points of the circumference of the 
circle, I cannot remain fixed to the centre. When 
I think of you, I have the gratitude still fresh in 
my heart of the time when you showed your- 
self so sweet and indulgent towards the foolish 
irritation caused in me by the use of coffee. I 
wish I were still at the Poudrerie ! 

I can give you news of the lawsuit. The 
supreme judgment is delivered. Messrs. Dupin 
and Boinvilliers, the two most distinguished ad- 
vocates of the Bar, have decided that I ' showed 
ill will ' in taking eight months to write the 
( Médecin de Campagne.' They have given me four 
months to write ' Les Trois Cardinaux.' And they 
are persons of intelligence ! In default of fulfil- 
ling this award, I am liable to a fine of three thou- 
sand eight hundred francs — which would set me 


free. The Duke of Fitzjames has written me 
a letter, which has deeply touched me. As soon 
as he heard of this decision, he begged me to 
draw at sight on his banker for three thousand 
eight hundred francs, so that I might deliver my- 
self from this hangman ! I declined gratefully ; 
saying that hitherto, in all the emergencies of my 
life, my courage had proved stronger than my 
misfortunes ; but I promised that if by any 
sudden turn of affairs I should find myself in need 
of these three thousand eight hundred francs, I 
would borrow them from him for a month. 

The sentence pronounces my publisher to be 
a liar, a calumniator, and to have behaved outrage- 
ously towards me ; but none the less have my 
judges decided that I must continue my business 
relations with him. 

And yet my judges are men of honour, every- 
body says so. 

My publisher is condemned to pay me three 
thousand francs for ' Le Médecin de Campagne,' 
and since the sentence was pronounced he has 
refused to do this. 

An enormous expense was incurred in en- 
forcing the judgment, and this very day my work 
has been seized in default of payment 

vol. 1. B B 


Such is my life : lawyers, lawsuits, worries 
without end. Faites donc de belles choses. 

I have received poignard stabs from chapter to 
chapter, whilst writing this work, which my friends, 
even the most fastidious of them, consider sublime. 
It has personally cost me a thousand francs for 
corrections, of which the arbitrators have taken no 
account whatever. I say nothing of my nights 
and days of work, of my health undermined by the 
abuse of coffee. . . . 

I am going to the 'Journal des Enfants* for Ivan. 

Take much care of yourself. 

Now adieu ! I have forgotten myself for your 

I only intended to say two words. But how 
can one help gossiping when with hearty friends ? 
You are right, friendship is not found ready 
made. Thus every day mine for you increases ; 
it has its root both in the past and in the present. 
A thousand good words to the Commandant. 

To M. Charles Gosselm, Parts. 

Paris : August 1833. 

Sir, — My lawsuit against Mame the publisher 
has been a case of force majeure, which has pre- 
vented me from finishing ' Le Privilège,' accord- 
ing to my agreement. 


I think, however, there is a method by which 
your interests and my own may be rendered 

By virtue of the sentence given against Mame, 
and in consequence of the heavy engagements 
undertaken with Messrs. Dieuloulard and Boulland, 
I became two days ago repossessed of all my rights 
to ' Les Scènes de la Vie Parisienne/ so that the 
great work of * Études des Mœurs au XIX me 
Siècle ' is free. 

If, then, you would undertake the publica- 
tion of it, my literary obligations to you would be 
met. The desire you have expressed to publish 
the ' Scènes de la Vie privée ' will not be inter- 
fered with. If this proposal suits you, be good 
enough to let me know at once, because I am 
obliged to have this matter setded before the 20th 
of this month. 

You are aware that this publication comprises 
twelve volumes in octavo ; in which are contained, 
six volumes of reprints of books, three of articles 
which are reprints, and three volumes which 
have not yet been published. 

1 Les Scènes de la Vie privée/ 
' Les Scènes de la Vie de Province.' 
1 Les Scènes de la Vie Parisienne/ 
' Les Scènes de la Vie de Campagne.' 

B B 2 


If it does not suit you to undertake the 
publication, let me know at once, because several 
persons have already made me proposals. 

To M. Charles de Bernard, Besançon. 

Paris : August 1833. 

Sir, — I do not know whether you are at 
Besançon, but in the uncertainty I write again. 

On Sunday the 22nd, I leave for Besançon by 
the mail. I shall be there on Tuesday morning for 
a short time ; but during this short time, I should 
like to sete you, in order to speak of something 
which requires a knowledge of the country, and 
which concerns me personally ; also, of something 
which may be very agreeable to you. 

If this letter finds you at Besançon, would 
you have the goodness to ensure me a place in 
whatever vehicle goes the quickest, and the 
earliest to Neuchâtel ? You would oblige me 
infinitely. On Tuesday, then ! Accept, I beg, 
a thousand assurances of esteem, and of my highest 

To M. Charles de Bernard, Besançon. 

Neuchâtel, end of September, 1833. 

My dear M. de Bernard, — I shall have the 
pleasure of seeing you again on Wednesday, 


October 2. Would you be so obliging as to take 
a place for me in the mail to Paris ? 

I heartily hope you may have something to 
say to me about your plan, that is, if you have 
worked at it 

I have been very happy here. I am much 
pleased with what I have seen; the country is 
delightful ; but you know that Jupiter has two urns, 
and that the gods have no favours which are com- 

It seems to me as if I had given you very 
small thanks for the pleasant day you gave me ; 
but I hope to prove that I am not ungrateful. 

Adieu till Wednesday, believe that I shall have 
great pleasure in seeing you again, you who 
have caused my visit to Besançon to be not 
useless, and also enabling me to find pleasure in 
it Accept a thousand kind compliments, and 
the obedience of a person who is glad to say he 
is ever yours. 

To Madame Zulma Carraud, Angoulême. 

Neuchâtel : end of September, 1833. 

I have just escorted the great Borget as far as 
the frontier of the sovereign states of this city. 
As you may imagine, you have made a third in 


our long and pleasant friendly gossip. We love 
you much, and we are both of us of a dog-like 
nature as regards fidelity. 

Paris : October 5. 

I finish the letter here, begun at Neuchâtel. 
Figure to yourself that at the very moment when 
I had snugly settled myself at the side of the fire, 
to write to you at length in reply to your last 
kind letter, I was fetched away to go and see 
places, and this lasted until my departure, which 
took place on October 1. I was four days on the 
road, and here I am at last — thoroughly tired. 

I will not tell you more in this letter, for you 
will find at M. Sazerac's a little case or parcel 
containing your box to hold your writing paper. 
Take care when you undo the parcel ; the key is 
wrapped in paper, and as it is small you might 
lose it. 

You will find a letter in the box, in which I 
explain all concerning M. Calluau. 

This, then, is only a letter to announce the 
parcel, and as it will arrive first, I send you now 
a thousand tender expressions of my affection. 
Endeavour so to arrange things, that I may come 
and see you. 

A hearty shake of the hand to the Commandant. 


To Madame Zulma Carraud, Angoulême. 

Paris: Octobers, 1833: evening. 

I am writing, as you see, on the very prettiest 
paper in the world, and my letter will be enclosed 
in just the most fashionable of envelopes ! Does 
it come from you ? I know nothing — I found it 
here ; it had been brought by someone unknown, 
who refused to say by whom he had been sent 

This proceeding, coming from you, would 
surprise me, for you are quite aware how 
much I love you, the importance I attach to your 
opinions, and my admiration for the nobility of 
your nature. I think you and I are above these 
little mysteries. The present must have come from 
some other person — and if that be the case, I am 
not pleased. I do not choose to accept anything 
except from yourself, whom I love so well and to 
whom I would like to offer so many things and so 
much friendship that you should always be in my 
debt. If, then, this paper does not come from 
you, will you try to find out who sent it ? If it 
has been sent by you, I think there must have 
been some mistake, about which we will speak 
no more. 

I have not sent your scented sachet in this 


box, because it is not yet finished, but it shall be 
sent all in good time. 

Write soon, for I wish to know if this paper 
has been sent by you; if it comes from anyone 
else I shall detest it, precisely because as paper it 
pleases me. 

Now let us come to our undertaking. 1 Borget 
has taken from M. Surville two coupons of three 
thousand francs each ; my mother and Surville 
take each of them three at the same rate ; I have 
kept one for myself ; this makes six coupons : 
there still remain three coupons ; the undertaking 
consisting of nine coupons, at three thousand francs 
each. Of these three, I think my mother pur- 
posed to take two for my brother ; there remains, 
therefore, only one to be taken up for three thou- 
sand francs. Borget will bring you a copy of our 
deed of partnership, Judge for yourself whether 
this small share in the matter will be agreeable to 
you. I should have been very pleased if the 
Commandant Périollas and yourself had been 
sharers in this affair, for it is as safe as any specu- 
lation can be. In this state of the case, think it 
over, and if you find the rate of interest too 

1 This undertaking was to manufacture a special paper for an 
edition of Balzac's works. The project came to nothing. 


low, I might be able to arrange that with my 

Here is the business part of the matter. Be 
good enough to go to see M. Calluau, and propose 
to him the conditions on which he may supply us. 

1. We must have machine-made paper, 2 ft. 
1 1 in. long by 2 ft. 7 in. wide ; the rame must 
contain five hundred sheets, and must weigh from 
twenty-eight to thirty pounds. We* can only give 
him from fifty to sixty centimes a pound. As 
concerns the quality, I send you a pattern for the 
white paper, and for the style of workmanship. 
It is the specimen of a paper that has been offered 
to us at sixty-five centimes a pound. A saving 
of a penny upon a pound of paper would send all 
France to buy it, for the speciality of our under- 
taking lies in the prodigious economy of the 
process of manufacture. This settled, M. Calluau, 
if he accepts the order, must make us a sample of 
the paper, and all he furnishes afterwards must 
be of the same quality. We shall pay ready 
money on the delivery of the paper. 

We should need about 1 20 rames a month ; 
the supply might be doubled by the end of two 
months, and be tripled before the sixth month. 
He would always have to keep in stock 140 rames, 
certified and ready for use, so that we may always 


have a sufficient quantity of paper on hand, before 
we increase our issue, in order not to run short 
in case we should need paper from day to day. 

The first instalment would be needed between 
November 15 and December 1. 

If these proposals suit him, my partners and 
myself would draw up a deed of the terms, adding 
to it a specimen sheet of the paper, and I would 
myself come to Angoulême by the next mail. 

Will you kindly see at once to this affair, 
you and M. Carraud, so that I may have a reply 
the soonest possible. This business must be 
transacted with the speed of lightning. 

Now I want to speak about yourself, about 
myself, but I have no time for anything. I hope 
soon to be in Angoulême, and then we shall have 
one or two good days for all we have to say, but 
I will not wait for this journey to express all the 
affectionate gratitude there is in my heart for your 
last letter, and to tell you that all literary 
annoyances only drive me more entirely to take 
refuge in the heart of those who love me to find 
consolation there. You have not, then, heard how 
' Le Médecin ' has been received ? By torrents 
of abuse ! The three journals of my party have 
spoken of it with the most profound contempt for 
the work and for the author ; as regards the other 



organs, I know nothing, they cause me no pain. 
You are my public, you and a few other chosen 
souls, whom I wish to please ; but yourself 
especially, whom I am proud to know, you whom 
I have never seen nor listened to without gaining 
some benefit, you who have the courage to aid 
me in tearing out the evil weeds from my field, 
you who encourage me to perfect myself, you 
who resemble so much that angel to whom I owe 
everything ; in short, you who are so good towards 
my ill-doings (' mauvaisetés '). I alone know how 
quickly I turn to you. I have recourse to your 
encouragements, when some arrow has wounded 
me ; it is the wood-pigeon regaining its nest. I 
bear you an affection which resembles no other, 
and which can have no rival, because it is alone 
of its kind. 

It is so bright and pleasant near you ! From 
afar, I can tell you, without fear of being put to 
silence, all I think about your mind, about your 

No one can wish more earnestly that the road 
here below may be smooth for you. I should like 
to send you all the flowers you love, as I often 
send above your head the most ardent prayers 
and wishes for your happiness. 

There are still many faults to be corrected in 


' Le Médecin ' — another edition must precede the 
cheap one — for I do not wish any work of mine 
to be made popular until it is as perfect as it is 
given to me to make it 

Come yet a few months more of work, and I 
shall have made a great step. This winter I shall 
finish several works, by which I shall perhaps 
make my mark. After ' Louis Lambert ' and 
the ' Médecin de Campagne/ I shall bring out in 
the same line, ' Les Souffrances de l'Inventeur/ 
'L'Histoire dune Idée heureuse/ and 'César 
Birotteau/ When these three great works are 
finished, perhaps I shall have merited one of those 
kindly looks which you give me, and which I 
count amongst my sweetest, my most precious 
rewards ; for I place you among the number of 
those most perfect beings who console us for 
being in the world. 

I must leave you. I must say adieu, while I 
have still so many things to say. A thousand 
things to the Commandant. Endeavour that I 
may see you in eight days from now. 


To the Duchesse d'Aùrantès, Versailles. 

Paris : 1833. 

Instead of the great secret, I found on my re- 
turn a letter, which came too late to read before 
my departure — I only came home on Sunday. 

Why do you want my authorisation to speak 
well of the ' Médecin de Campagne/ while the 
whole world speaks ill of it, on its own private 
authority ? 

This little note is intended to convey a thou- 
sand testimonies of friendship. I write whilst my 
bath is being prepared. I have been travelling four 
days and nights in a kind of hen-roost, for want of 
room in a better place. I cannot understand why 
on all the high roads in Switzerland there are 
thirty travellers in each town, who are all waiting 
for places. I am knocked up by a most useless 
journey, but which has enchanted me. I never 
saw more lovely scenery than that I have 
passed through ; the Val de Travers seems made 
for two lovers. 

A thousand tender regards ; soon to meet, I 
hope. Do not mention my return to anyone, t 
have to pass through ten days of pressing work, 
during which I shall be like a worm eating its 
way through a beam. 


To Madame Laure Surville, Monglat. 

Paris : 1833. 

Two letters from my sister not answered ! 
Luckily, you do not keep a reckoning with me ; I 
knew that long ago. What a dear and sweet 
affection is that which causes one no anxiety ! 

You are convinced, are you not. that I can 
never forget her who took my part when I was a 
child, who beat me, and who played me those 
merry tricks, which brought with them such joyous 
laughs. . . . Happy times, whither are you fled ? 

I am correcting ' Eugénie Grandet,' 

' Je ne dors ni ne veille 
Cet enfant me réveille,' 

and leaves me but little leisure. 

If you knew what it is to knead up ideas, to 
give them form and colour, you would not be so 
quick at criticism. 

Ah ! so there are too many millions of money 
in ' Eugénie Grandet ' ? You goose, since the 
story is true, do you want me to do better than 
the truth ? You are not aware how money grows 
in the hands of misers. Still, if your outcries are 
well founded, I will either justify the amount or 
reduce it in the next edition. 

I have brought home an idea that will make 


a grand book from Switzerland. 1 We will talk it 
over when you return. 

To M. diaries Gosselin, Paris. 

Paris : November 16, 1833. 

Sir, — I reply to your letter of yesterday, 
November 15, and we are now definitely agreed. 

' Le Marquis de Carabas ' shall be withdrawn, 
as you propose, from our agreement. 

On January 18 next I will send you, subject to 
the corrections on which we shall afterwards agree, 
a copy of the two volumes of ' Contes philoso- 
phiques,' of which one volume will be fresh matter, 
under a penalty of five hundred francs demurrage 
for every fortnight after time. This portion of 
the work will replace ' Le Privilège/ a novel in 
two volumes, which I was to have delivered to you 
in May 1834. 

You can announce, this very day, the two 
volumes of stories, the titles and the subjects being 
quite setded — ' Les Souffrances de l'Inventeur/ 
4 Aventures administratives dune Idée heureuse 
et patriotique/ César Birotteau/ ' Le Prêtre Catho- 

If the printer whom you select is sufficiently 

1 This book was Séraphita. 


rich in types to set up both these volumes, there 
will be no delay on my side to interfere with their 
appearance on February 1 next. 
Accept my hearty compliments. 

To Madame Zulma Carratid, Angoulême. 

Paris : December, 1833. 

Unless I write to you at once after reading 
your letter the chances are that it will not be 
answered at all. I am carried off my feet by a 
torrent of proofs, of work, of writing, and of busi- 
ness, which leave me no time to think of any- 

I have just written to M. D . I went 

yesterday to Emile de Girardin, and he went to 
him. He can there have a situation of from 90 
to 100 francs a month ; but it required all my 
love for you to enable me to endure the imperti- 
nence of Emile. 

I cannot come to Angoulême before the first 
fortnight in January. I am going to Geneva to 
stay there a month but I will come to you — of 
that you may be quite sure. 

As to M. Bohain, 1 there are many calumnies 
afloat about him ; there are also some things that 

1 Editor of L Europe littéraire. 


are true ; but you may feel assured that I am 
too careful of that white robe which is called 
glory, honour, reputation, to let any spot fall 
upon it. 

Thanks for your good letter ; thanks also for 
that of Auguste. Tell him that all shall be as 
he wishes, that I am his banker, and that when 
I come he can tell me what it is that he wants. I 
cannot write a reply to his letter, but I can think 
of him and love him. 

I do not get more than five hours' sleep ; from 
midnight to midday I work at my composition, and 
from noon till four o'clock I correct my proofs. 
By the 25 th I shall have four volumes in print. 
' Eugénie Grandet ' will surprise you. Something 
very important has happened to me. I cannot 
tell you about it until I come to Angoulême. 
Perhaps I may then claim all your friendship for 
something which I can confide to no one but 
yourself. A thousand tender things to yourself ; 
and say for me to M. Carraud and to Auguste all 
that I have not the time to say. 

vol. 1. C C 


To Madame Zulma Carraud> Angoulême. 

Paris : end of December 1833. 

What a beautiful present, what a precious re- 
membrance you give me, I who know what you 
put into each stitch of embroidery ! A thousand 
times thanks ! 

I can say nothing about your criticisms * ex- 
cepting this — facts are against you. There is a 
grocer at Tours who possesses eight millions of 
francs; M. Eynard, who is only a hawker, has 
twenty million francs, and has thirteen millions in 
gold in his house, which in 18 14 he invested at 
fifty-six francs in the ' Grand Livre/ and thus 
made it into twenty millions. I will answer your 
criticisms, for which I thank you, one by one when 
I reach Frapesle. Perhaps you will then see 
that the author may have one point of view, whilst 
the reader may have another. But nothing can 
express what my gratitude is, for the maternal 
care which prompts your observations. 

For heaven's sake, cara, do not accuse your- 
self as though you had been in fault ; there must 
always be some truth in the feelings of a great 
and noble soul like your own, especially when a 
solitude filled with thoughts enlarges it. Yes, 

1 On ' Eugénie Grandet' 


depend upon it, I will come to Frapesle, and I 
think I may succeed in obtaining the companion- 
ship of Madame de Berny ; I found her on my 
arrival here yesterday so very ill that I was 
seriously alarmed, and I am still in most miserable 
anxiety. Her life is so much bound up in mine ! 
Ah, no one can form any true idea of this deep 
attachment which sustains me in all my work, and 
consoles me every moment in all I suffer. You 
can understand something of this, you who know 
so well what friendship is, you who are so affec- 
tionate, so good. As soon as I am at rest from 
this anxiety, I will write to you. I thank you 
beforehand for your offer of Frapesle to her. 

There, amid your flowers, and in your gentle 
companionship, and the country life, if convales- 
cence is possible, and I venture to hope for it, 
she will regain life and health. Pardon the in- 
coherence of this letter, for I am very uneasy. 
I only returned yesterday. The sight of Madame 
de Berny has entirely upset me. A thousand 
friendly thanks. I am plunging once more into my 
work. On February 25 there will appear a por- 
tion in two volumes of the ' Études des Mœurs ; ' 
tell me if I shall send a copy to the Poudrerie or 
to Frapesle. Say all that is kind to Auguste. 
My ' Séraphita 'is in a very forward state. My 

c c 2 


best remembrances to the Commandant, whom I 
congratulate on his retirement. Give Ivan a kiss 
on the forehead, and keep my tenderest regards 
for yourself. 

Adieu, you whom I never forget. 

Votre tout dévoué. 

To Madame Zulma Carraud, Angoulême. 

Geneva : January 30, 1834. 

My dearest flower of friendship, — Never accuse 
me of forgetfulness. I have thought much about 
you ; I have even spoken of you with pride, con- 
gratulating myself on possessing a second con- 
science in you. 

The work I have done is nothing compared 
with the work that lies before me. ' Séraphita ' is 
more cruelly difficult to the author than any other 
he has yet undertaken. My liberation makes but 
slow progress. The fiasco of the ' Médecin de 
Campagne ' and of ' Louis Lambert ' has grieved 
me, but I am determined nothing shall discourage 
me. By next August I hope to be free ; but by 
the month of April I ought, I believe, to be well 
advanced. Nevertheless, I shall never let a year 
pass over without coming to inhabit my room at 


I am sorry for all your annoyances ; I should 
like to know you are already at home, and believe 
me I am not averse to an agricultural life, and even 
if you were in any sort of hell, I would go there to 
join you. 

In February you will have my second issue of 
' Études des Mœurs.' You have been very little 
touched with my poor ' Eugénie Grandet,' which 
describes provincial life so well, but I believe a 
work which is intended to comprise every shade 
of character and all social ranks cannot be under- 
stood until it is finished. It will be something 
worth doing, if the day comes when twenty 
volumes in octavo will be reduced to ten volumes, 
so as to be within reach of everybody's purse. 
Whilst I have been here, I have written two 
'Contes drolatiques;' and the best of them all 
(' Berthe la Repentie ') would have been finished 
before now had it not been for an influenza, of 
which I am still the victim. 

Some day, earn, when you read the ' Études 
des Mœurs ' and the ' Études philosophiques ' by 
your fireside at Frapesle, you will understand why 
I write in such an unconnected manner; I am 
dazed by ideas which crowd upon me, I am craving 
for rest, and I am annoyed besides at my position, 
which is that of a bird on a bending branch. 


Germany has bought two thousand copies of 
the pirated edition of ' Louis Lambert/ while in 
France two hundred copies of the work have not 
been sold. 

Yet am I writing ' Séraphita/ which is a work 
as far superior to ' Louis Lambert ' as ' Louis Lam- 
bert ' is above ' Gaudissart/ which Boyet tells me 
you never much liked. We will talk about it here- 
after. It seems decreed that I shall never have 
complete happiness, the happiness of liberation from 
debt, nor freedom, except in perspective. But, dear 
friend, let me at least tell you now, in the fulness of 
my heart, that during this long and painful road four 
noble beings have faithfully held out their hands 
to me, encouraged me, loved me, and had com- 
passion on me ; and you are one of them, who 
have in my heart an inalienable privilege and 
priority over all other affections ; every hour of 
my life upon which I look back is filled with 
precious memories of you. Yes ; the egoism of 
poets and artists is a passion for art, which 
holds their personal feelings in reserve. You will 
always have the right to command me, and all 
that is in me is yours. When I have any dreams 
of happiness, you always take a part in them ; and 
to be considered worthy of your esteem is to me a 
far higher prize than all the vanities the world can 


bestow. No, you can give me no amount of 
affection which I do not desire from my heart to 
return you a thousand-fold. But, poor slave of 
my work that I am, bound to write phrases, I 
can give you no sign of my attachment ; I am like 
a goat tethered to its stake. When will the 
capricious hand of Fortune set me free ? I know 
not But, come, I must say adieu ; a letter is a 
luxury in my case. I thank you for all your good 
things ; your letters do me so much good. There 
are a few persons whose approval I desire, and 
yours is one of those I hold most dear. 

To Madame la Duchesse <T Abranth. 

Paris : 1834. 

I was working night and day, not even reading 
my letters, when you wrote me those two. People 
who are on the field of battle, as you know, are 
not free to converse nor to let their friends know 
whether they are alive or dead. I am dead — dead 
from work ; but I send you my book to prove that 
the dead do not forget when they have you to 
remember, and they are votre tout dévoué. 


To Madame Charles Béchet, Publisher, Paris. 

April 16, 1854. 

Madame, — Our third portion of ' Études des 
Mœurs ' can hardly appear before May 20. I give 
you notice of this, in order that it may not inter- 
fere with your commercial arrangements by de- 
ceiving you with false hopes. I was obliged to 
quit Paris for ten days for the sake of rest I was 
so terribly over-fatigued, and before I went I was 
confined to my bed for four days. My doctor 
ordered me to cease from work entirely. 

Nevertheless, this delay will be all for the 
benefit of the unpublished portion which I under- 
took to supply over and above our agreement — 
somewhat rashly. To form a volume of twenty- 
four sheets, in addition to the original fourth 
volume of the ' Scènes de la Vie privée/ four fresh 
sheets must be added, which will mount up to 
eight sheets, supposing there to have been twenty- 
four in the old edition. 

All this work will greatly improve your bar- 
gain ; by rendering the edition quite new, and by 
suppressing the two first editions of the 4 Scènes,' 
the rapid sale of these twelve volumes will be 

I am bound to give you these explanations, 


in order that you may understand the alterations 
which this unexpected work brings into both the 
literary and mechanical execution ; for you can 
well understand that an author cannot add four 
sheets to an already completed book, without some 
little thought, nor intercalate them without some 
labour. I shall be in Paris on the 23rd. I cal- 
culate that, seconded as I am by M. Barbier, 
who works miracles, we shall be able to bring 
out the third volume of the 'Scènes de la Vie 
privée ' between April 23 and May 20, which will 
be altogether fresh unpublished matter ; but it will 
require enormous exertion to arrive at this result ! 

On the other hand, the fourth portion will 
only contain eighteen sheets of fresh matter in the 
fifty sheets already published, and I shall be able 
to take it more leisurely, and it may appear on 
June 20. I beg, madame, that you will at the 
earliest moment possible exchange with M. Gos- 
selin the first and second parts of the ' Études ' 
for the four volumes of my ' Romans et Contes 
philosophiques/ which I am very anxious should 
be sold out, and of which he has very few copies 

Accept, madame, my sincere respects. 


To Madame Emile de Girardin, Paris. 

Paris : 1834. 

Madame, — Since the day when I had last the 
honour of seeing you, I have seen no one. I am 
therefore ignorant of who can possibly have told 
you that I am offended with you, and wherefore ? 
We are not offended with people unless we have 
done them some wrong, and the only fault against 
you which I can lay to my own charge is that 
I have not availed myself of your friendly invi- 
tations, but those are reasons which should increase 
my regard for you. 

I am grateful for your kind remembrance of 
me ; but I shall not be able to come to see you for 
a long time, for I am plunged into the quagmire of 
the proofs and corrections of two works, for which 
I am pressed for time. Accept my respectful 

To Madame Emile de Girardin, Paris. 

Paris : 1834. 

Madame, — Your invitation came after I had 
accepted another from which I could not disen- 
gage myself. But apart from this, I tell you 
frankly that I should feel it inconsistent to come 


to your house to see you, as I can no longer 
come when M. de Girardin would be at home. 
The regret I experience is caused quite as much 
by the blue eyes and blonde hair of a lady, who 
I believe to be my best friend — and whom I 
would gladly have for mine — as by those black 
eyes which you recall to my remembrance, and 
which had made an impression upon me. But 
indeed, I cannot come. My labours will force me 
to bid you farewell for a long time, for as soon as 
the third part of ' Les Études des Mœurs ' is pub- 
lished, I shall take refuge in the country, and I 
shall not return for three months. Accept my 
respectful homage, and all kind and gracious 
regards ; and do not forget to express my regrets 
to Madame O'Donnel, and to those same black 
eyes which &c, &c. 

To the Baron Gérard, Paris. 

Paris : June 8, 1834. 

Sir, — What I send has no other end than 
the friendly feeling accompanying it ; it was the 
copy I had reserved for myself, but I could not 
place the author's mite better. 

I add to the four published volumes of the 


1 Études des Mœurs ' my first daub, 1 which has 
just appeared to-day in a retouched condition ; 
though, in spite of my endeavours, I fear the 
student's hand is still too visible. 

It will be an honour to be permitted to be in 
your library. 

Accept, sir, the expression of my highest re- 

To Madame Laure Surville, Paris. 

Monday, 2 o'clock a.m., 1834. 

My good alma sororl — Your husband and 
Sophie came yesterday and had a detestable 
dinner in my bachelor's den at Chaillot ; this was 
all the more provoking, because the kind brother 
had been running about all day for me, to see a 
house which I wish to buy. 

I have just made a good arrangement with 
the ' Estafette ; ' the other great papers will all 
come back to me in time ; they will need me. 
Besides, have they deprived me of my estates 
in my brain, my literary vines, and my intellec- 
tual woods ? and are there not still remaining 
publishers to work them ? These last, not under- 

1 The Chouans, 


standing their true interests (you will hardly 
believe it), prefer the works which have not 
appeared in any review ; this is not the time to 
enlighten them : nevertheless, it is certain that a 
first impression saves them advertisements, and 
the more a work is known, the better it will sell. 
Do not make yourself unhappy, there is no danger 
yet in the dwelling ; I am tired, it is true, but I am 
accepting the invitation of M. de Margonne, and 
I am to pass two months at Sache, where I shall 
rest and take care of myself. I shall try some 
theatrical writing, whilst finishing my ' Père 
Goriot/ and correcting ' La Recherche de l'Absolu. 9 
I shall begin with ' Marie Touchet/ a proud piece, 
which I shall fit up with proud personages. 

I will not sit up so late ; do not torment 
yourself about this pain in the side. Listen, I 
must be just, if vexations bring on a liver com- 
plaint, I shall not have stolen it. But stop, 
Madame la Mort ! if you come, let it be to re- 
place my burden ; I have not yet finished my 
task . . . Do not be too anxious, the sky will be 
blue again ! . . . 

The * Lys dans la Vallée/ is dedicated to Dr. 
Nacquart, and the dedication will move him to 
tears. I tell him that I inscribe his name on this 
stone of the edifice, as much to thank the wise man 


to whom I owe my life, as to honour the friend. 
Poor doctor ! he truly merits it. 

The ' Médecin de Campagne ' is being re- 
printed, it was a failure in the (booksellers') trade. 
Is not this pleasant ? 

The widow Béchet has been sublime : she 
has taken upon herself the expense of more than 
four thousand francs of corrections, which were 
set down to me. Is not this still pleasanter ? 

Well, if God gives me life, I shall have a good 
position, and we shall all be happy ; let us laugh, 
my good sister, the house of Balzac will triumph. 
Shout loudly with me, so that Fortune may hear 
us ; and once again, do not torment yourself. . . . 

To Madame de Girardin, Paris. 

Paris : 1834. 

Madame, — I have just enough understanding 
and feeling to know that I can say nothing in 
my own justification. If I were too much in the 
right, I should give you pain, and if I were in the 
wrong I should lose in your estimation. Upon 
this matter I shall preserve a complete silence, 
to all others as I am doing towards you ; but my 
determination is irrevocable ; this is not a quarrel 
nor a mistake, it is a conviction. I have decided 


that I will not again enter the house of M. de 
Girardin, and that, even if I should meet him, he 
would be to me as one I had never seen before. 
It has given me great pain to be forced to set 
aside all your goodness to me, to renounce all 
our pleasant conversations. I entreat you to 
believe that the cause is both serious and painful. 
I shall never be either inimical or friendly towards 
M. de Girardin. I shall neither accuse him nor 
defend him. Everything will be to me a matter 
of indifference, except as it may cause you pain or 

Do not accuse me of littleness ; for I think I 
am too great to be offended by anyone in the 
world. But there are certain sentiments which I 
give or withhold ; I cannot be false, I cannot play 
a part Your salon was almost the only one where 
I found myself on a footing of friendship. You will 
hardly perceive my absence ; and I remain alone. 
I thank you with sincere and affectionate feeling, for 
your kind persistence. I believe you to be actuated 
by a good motive ; and you will always find in me 
a something of devotion towards you in all that 
personally concerns yourself. 


To M. Théodore Dablin, Paris. 

Paris : 1830. 

My dear Dablin, — I am suffering under one of 
those frightful prostrations which follow excess. I 
am incapable of everything ; it €ill arises from my 
having given up strong café noir. Be so kind then 
as to put off our dinner until Monday ; if you 
cannot, you must let me know. My book will not 
appear till Monday ; meantime here is a fresh copy 
of the ' Médecin de Campagne.' 

Pardon the incoherence of this letter. I am 
not able to write. I am in one of those states of 
suffering which only God knows. 

To Madame Laure Surville, Paris. 

Sache : 1834. 

My dear Sister, — To-day I am feeling so sad, 
that there must be something sympathetic in this 
sadness. Is anyone whom I love unhappy ? My 
mother — is she ill ? Where is my good Surville ? 
Is he well in body and soul ? Have you received 
any news about Henry ? — are they good ? You 
and your litde ones, are any of you ill ? Write, 
and set my mind at rest without delay on all these 
points so dear to me. My attempts at plays 


have all gone wrong, and I must give up dramatic 
writing for the present. The historical drama 
requires* great scenic effects, which I do not under- 
stand. As to comedy, Molière, whom I would 
make my model, is a most heart-breaking master. 
It would require days and days to produce any- 
thing worth having in this line, and it is just 
time that fails me. In every scene there are innu- 
merable difficulties, and I have no leisure to set 
legs and arms in play. A masterpiece and my name 
would open all doors to me, but I am a long way 
yet from a masterpiece. That my reputation may 
not be compromised, I must find some borrowed 
names ; this takes time, and the worst of it is, I have 
no time to lose. I regret this, because these works 
are more profitable than my books, and would 
sooner extricate me from my difficulties. 

But it is a long time since I and suffering 
measured our strength against each other ; I have 
overcome her, I will overcome her again. If I 
fail, it will have been the will of Heaven, not 

The pain it gives you to hear of my troubles 
ought to check me from speaking of them ; but 
how to prevent my too full heart from pouring 
itself out to you ? It is not right, however ; it 
requires a robust organisation to support the 

vol. 1. D D 


torments of an author's life, and that is what you 
women do not possess. 

I work more than is desirable ; but what would 
you have ? When I am at work, I forget my 
troubles : it is what saves me ; but you — you forget 
nothing ! There are people whom this faculty 
of mine offends, and they redouble my torments 
by not understanding me. 

I ought to insure my life, in order to leave a 
little money to my mother in the event of my 
death. Can I stand the expense ? I will see about 
it on my return. 

The time which the inspiration caused by 
coffee formerly lasted has now diminished ; it 
only gives a fortnight's excitement to the brain — 
a fatal excitement, for it causes me horrible pains 
in the stomach. 

What energy is required to keep the head sane 
when the mind suffers so much ! . . . My best 
inspirations have, however, always shone out in 
my hours of extreme anguish ; they are then 
about to shine again. I shall say no more ; 
Heaven ought to bestow a more fortunate 
brother on such an affectionate sister. 



To Madame Laure Surville. 

Sache : 1834. 

My dear Sister, — Your letter is the first 
congratulation I have received on the ' Recherche 
de l'Absolu.' Your affection makes you out-speed 
the rest of the world . . . You are right, the 
praises in the sincerity of which one can believe 
do the soul good, and are the rewards of us poor 
literary labourers. 

I was quite foolishly touched by your kind 

I think you are wrong about the longeurs 
which you point out ; they have ramifications 
throughout the subject which have escaped you. 
Also, I stand by Marguerite; no, she is not 
an overstrained character, for Marguerite is a 
Fleming ; and those women never follow more 
than one idea, and they follow their aim doggedly 
to the end. 

Your criticisms are gentle ; we will talk them 
over another time, and if they are repeated br- 
others, I will give them consideration. I am here 
only to work like a horse, and for nothing else. 
On Saturday you will have a manuscript, 'a 
grand work,' more moving even than ' Eugenic 

d d 2 


Grandet/ or the ' Recherche de l'Absolu.' It has 
cost me dear, however ! 

Much love and tenderness to yourself espe- 

To Madame de Balzac, Chantilly. 

Paris : 1834. 

My good Mother, — I am like one on the field 
of battle and the struggle is desperate. I can- 
not reply to you in a long letter ; but I have been 
well considering what is the best course to pursue. 
In the first place, I think you must come up to 
Paris to talk to me for an hour, so that you and 
I may understand each other. It is easier for me 
to talk than to write, and I think everything 
maybe arranged in accordance with what is due to 
your own position. Come to me, then, whenever 
you wish to come ; here, Rue des Batailles, as at 
Rue Cassini, you shall have the bed-room of that 
son whose heart your smallest words have the 
power to shake, and it is trembling even now. 
Come the soonest possible moment. I press you 
to my heart, and I wish I were a year older. Do 
not make yourself anxious about me ; there is 
every prospect of security for my future course. 


To Madame Zulma Carraud, Angoulime. 

Paris : August, 1834. 

Madame, — No, I do not forget you ; but I 
am working day and night, and have not a 
minute to write to you. I entreat you to let me 
have one line to tell me how you are. In a fort- 
night you will receive from me two new volumes, 
which have cost me much labour. I have only two 
more difficulties to arrange, and then I shall have 
no more plague from publishers. Gosselin is 
disinterested in everything. I have on the one 
side Madame Béchet, and on the other a new 
publisher named Werdet ; who will neither of 
them worry me : then I am looking for a third 
publisher to undertake the ' Cents Contes drola- 
tiques.' This done, with six months' work, I shall 
be free. I shall owe no one either a page or a 
sou, and my interest in my own works will be 
quite free, and at my own disposal. I shall have 
reached this oasis through many troubles and 
privations, of which the greatest are sometimes 
to have tired the patience of my friends, and 
not to have been able to let them see into the 
depths of my heart. 

I have been meditating a great tragedy which 
next year will be a good thing for my mother 


— at least, if the proceeds are as great as my 


These are the outward incidents of a life full 
of sentiments, in which you occupy a large space. 
You know this, do you not ? 

I have many sorrows just now. Madame de 
Berny has had so many troubles falling upon her, 
blow after blow, that she is very ill. She is in 
the country, and I am forced to be in Paris ! You 
can understand all that lies in those few words ; 
there is in them both rind and core. I allow 
very few people to penetrate to the core. 

A thousand tender things to yourself. Kiss 
Ivan. A grasp of the hand to the Commandant. 

To the Duchesse cT Abrantès^ Versailles. 

Paris : 1834. 

I will come and see you in two days hence. 
Do not sign anything ; do not make any engage- 
ment regarding your ' Mémoires/ l I will tell you 
some iîne things ! Do not be frightened about 
the remainder. 2 Avoid the misfortune of not 
being free to make the best of your undertaking. 

1 Marne, who had published the first edition of the ' Mémoires 
de la Duchesse d'Abrantès,' in eighteen volumes, wished to bring 
one out in twelve volumes. 

3 The still unsold copies of the first edition. 


I have not read the article against you ; but where 
and how will you reply to it ? You have friends 
at hand, but just now I say to you, ' Take care ! ' 
A thousand friendly things. On Wednesday, 
from four to five o'clock, we will talk over every- 

To Madame de Balzac, Chantilly. 

End of September, 1834. 

My beloved Mother, — Here I am, having 
reached a good haven. I am working like a horse, 
and very profitably; but I am made miserable 
to fincl I have put you to inconvenience. I did 
not calculate properly, and I discovered at the 
moment of my departure that you would want five 
hundred francs more in order to pay the grocer. 
Bah ! the grocer may wait awhile, although now- 
a-days V épicier soit roi. I was wise to come here ; 
I am better ; almost rested ; and since the second 
day I have recovered all my facility for work ; 
my hosts are all they ever were. 

I consider it will take me fully ten days, 
counting from to-day, to finish the ' Père Goriot ' 
and ' Séraphita,' and to make my corrections for 
Barbier. If I can give a lift to ' César Birotteau/ 
to bring it up to the two-thirds, I will do it 

When you or Laura write to Henry, explain 


to him that I cannot write many letters, because 
I spend so much time in writing that I have no 
time left, except to eat and sleep. 

I enclose you the letter for Everat 
You will receive in a box which will leave 
about Thursday (October 2, I think) the manu- 
script of the ' Père Goriot' Remember, that it is 
precious and unique. Ask Madame Everat to 
lock it up in her cupboard rather than lose it for 
me : the Ricourt agreement was lost in this 
way ! Anyhow, take all possible precautions : it 
is a better work than even * Eugénie Grandet ; ' at 
least, I am better pleased with it. 

To the Duchesse d* Abr antes, Versailles. 

Paris : 1834. 

In the name of yourself, I entreat you, do not 
enter into any engagement with anybody whatso- 
ever ; do not make any promise, and say that you 
have entrusted your business to me on account of 
my knowledge of business-matters of this kind, 
and of my unalterable attachment to yourself per- 

I believe I have found what I may call living 
money, seventy thousand healthy francs, and some 
people, who will jump out of themselves, to dispose 


in a short time of ' three thousand D'Abrantès/ as 
they say in their slang. 

Besides, I see daylight for a third and larger 
edition. If Mamifère does not behave well, say 
to him, ' My dear sir, M. de Balzac has my busi- 
ness in his charge still, as he had on the day he 
presented you to me ; you must feel he has the 
priority over the preference you ask for.' This 
done, wait for me. I shall make you laugh when 
I tell you what I have concocted. 

If Everat appears again, tell him that I have 
been your attorney for a long time past in these 
affairs, when they are worth the trouble ; one or 
two volumes are nothing. But twelve or thirteen 
thousand francs, oh ! oh ! ah ! ah ! things must 
not be endangered. Only manœuvre cleverly, 
and, with that finesse which distinguishes Madame 
the Ambassadress, endeavour to find out from 
Mame how many volumes he still has on hand, 
and see if he will be able to oppose the new 
edition by slackness of sale or excessive price. 

Your entirely devoted. 


To M. Hippolyte Lucas, Paris. 

Paris : 1834. 

Sir, — You seem far too dangerous a rival 
for me to pay you compliments. I read your 
pretty novel of the ' Échelle de Soie ' with too 
much pleasure to be without fear. 

Accept my uneasy congratulations, and my 
wishes that you may be an idler ! I thank you 
much for sending me your book. 1 

To Madame de Balzac, Chantilly. 

Paris : November, 1834. 

My dear good Mother, — Laura tells me you 
have not been very well. I entreat you to take 
care of yourself! Nothing is so dear to me as 
your health ! I would give half of myself to keep 
you well, and I would keep the other half, to do 
you service. My mother, the day when we shall 
be all happy through me is coming quickly ; I 
am beginning to gather the fruits of the sacrifices 
I have made this year for a more certain future. 
Still, a few months more and I shall be able to 
give you that happy life — that life without cares 
or anxiety — which you so much need. You will 

1 Le Cœur et le Monde. 


have all that you desire ; our little vanities will 
be satisfied no less than the great ambitions of 
our hearts. Oh, do, I pray you, nurse yourself! 
If my affairs had permitted me, I should have 
been at Chantilly ; but I must go to England, as 
you are aware, for Surville and Laura. Besides, 
I have much to pay this month ; but my work 
will suffice for that 

You have no longer any occasion to torment 
yourself about me. Keep your mind at ease, 
and think about yourself ; preserve yourself for a 
happiness which it will be my happiness to offer 

Now that the end is not so distant, I may 
speak of it to you. This year you will have two 
pleasures. On my birthday, I am quite sure I 
shall owe nothing, except to you ; and during the 
remainder of the year, I hope to attain a still 
greater result ; I hope to be able to amass a 
capital for you, of which the first good will be, that 
you will henceforth have a guarantee ; « and then 
later . . . you will see ! Your comfort in material 
things, and your happiness are my riches. Oh ! 
my dear mother, do live to see my bright future 
realised! If you are not better, come again to 
Paris for another consultation. If I should go 
to Vienna in January, I would try to have enough 


money to take you with me ; a journey would 
perhaps set you up. At any rate, promise me 
not to put off coming here for a consultation ; 
above all, do not be anxious, do not torment 
yourself. If you have a fancy for anything, if 
you want anything, no matter what — tell me, 
mother, what it is. I may set aside my own 
whims, but it does not follow that you are not 
to gratify yours. 

Adieu ! dear mother ; I kiss you, I embrace 
you with a boundless love. I wish this letter 
could communicate my health to you, and that 
my wishes were as strong as my will. 

I have also been thinking of Henry's future ; 
I am settling about something, which may be the 
means of setting him up creditably, but do not 
say anything to him, I do not wish him to think 
that he can count upon me. 

If there is a 'Revue' at Chantilly, read the 
number of November 2 ; you will see that I am 
thinking of the future of the families of poor literary 
people ; and this time, you know, I have made 
use of my ' voix de tribune' Where is my poor 
father ? He would have made his dear little 
whisper heard on hearing this great and magnifi- 
cent letter, which is said to give me literary supre- 


Adieu, again, for all this time is stolen from the 
manuscripts ! 

To Madame Zulma Carraud, Frapesie. 

Paris : end of November 1834. 

Indeed, cara y you make me into a bad man 
and a grand seigneur, out of your own head. 
None of my friends either can or will under- 
stand that my work has increased, that I must 
have eighteen hours a day for work, that I keep 
out of the way of the ' Garde Nationale/ which 
would kill me. I am like the painters, I have 
invented passwords, which are only known to 
those who really have serious business with me. 
I, a grand seigneur ? Then I must have fallen 
into that class whose incomes are pitilessly fixed 
and unalterable, and who dare not venture on the 
smallest indulgence, unlike those Bedouins who 
dare even live on their capital. 

Besides my usual work, I am at present over- 
whelmed with business, I have to disentangle the 
tail of a misfortune. Those fifty thousand francs 
have been devoured like burning straw, and I 
have still before me fourteen thousand francs of 
debt ; which is as much as the twenty-four thou- 
sand that I have already paid, for it is the debt 
itself, and not the sum more or less which tor- 


ments rpe. I still need six months more to free 
my pen, as I have freed my purse ; and if I still 
owe something, it is certain that the profits of this 
year will clear me. For all that, I am still in 
debt ; these fifty thousand francs are an advance 
on the products of my labour. 

I have gone further than you, I have told 
Auguste not to undertake this journey. He 
will lose time ; he does perceive that in all arts 
there is a mechanism which must be mastered. 
In literature, in painting, in music, in sculpture, 
ten years' labour is needed before a man can 
understand the synthesis of an art as well as its 
material analysis. You cannot be a great painter 
because you have seen landscapes, or men, etc ; 
one may be able to copy a tree and make it a 
masterpiece. It would be better for him to 
struggle for two years with light and shade in a 
corner, like Rembrandt, who never left his own 
house, than to run about America, and to come 
back cruelly disenchanted, as he surely would be, 
in his political ideas. Your letter has a melancholy 
tone which grieves me. I am always hoping to be 
able to come and see you, and to prove that neither 
time nor circumstance can change Honoré, towards 
those who have acquired the right to use that